Dan Hilferty, chair of the 2026 World Cup Host Committee in Philadelphia, received a simple but powerful message everywhere he spoke of the spectacle.
If you thought you knew the size of the World Cup here, think again.
On Wednesday morning, he conveyed the message to a gathering of local business leaders at the center hosted by the Philadelphia Business Journal. And two days after the Eagles won electrifying the area, he had an apt analogy ready.
“Here in the States we tend to think of the Super Bowl as the ultimate and best sporting event,” Hilferty said. “I’ve come to describe the World Cup as the Super Bowl over and over, for a month or more.”
Federation president Tim McDermott, like Hilferty, came to football from a background outside the sport. (And, like Hilferty, he’s a huge Eagles fan.) Former chief marketing officer of the 76ers, Eagles, and Washington Capitals, reflect on what he learned from working at Game World.
“I didn’t really understand until the last six or seven years of the sport of football,” McDermott said, as that was the amount of time he had been with the federation. “It’s really cool. It’s unusual. The traditions of this sport, I think people here now in the Delaware Valley are going to get a chance to see and understand what it means, and what it stands for: on a national level, this notion of civic pride.”
READ MORE: Philadelphia will host 2026 men’s World Cup matches, bringing a global sports scene to America’s hometown
He compared the emotions of American sports fans with those of global sports fans, and measured the gap between then.
“In America, we focus a lot on our American sports, and the NFL is clearly at the forefront of that,” McDermott said. “But when you think about the world sport, which is a global sport, in almost every other country, football is that sport, and I think here sometimes we don’t quite understand that. The passion we might have in the United States for an NFL game or The Eagles game, imagine that two times, five times, 10 times, for the World Cup match – that’s some of what we should expect.”
As this is an event for the business community, there has been a lot of conversation about how the business community can get involved. A key piece of the puzzle at the moment, Hilferty said, is raising money to pay for the facilities that will be used outside of Lincoln’s finances. This means training venues, such as the one proposed at FDR Park that has generated controversy; and the fan festival site, which Hilferty said has yet to be finalized.
Hilferty said that when the FIFA delegation visited the city last fall, local organizers had “raised just over 50% of what we need to collect” to run events and facilities during the tournament. The goal is to confirm all locations next year. As he politely dodged questions about where the fans would party, he hinted that it could be at Penn’s Landing, where a large amusement park has been planned for the planned roof over I-95.
“Along the river might be a logical choice,” he said. “FIFA would like it to be closer to the city center. So I would just like to let it be okay.”
»Read more: What being a potential World Cup training site means for South Velez FDR Park
Michelle Singer, Comcast’s Vice President of Political Engagement, praised their “resilience in allowing us to be creative” in fundraising, “because we have experience. And they are waiting for us, just like the rest of America, to raise the capital needed for a world-class event.”
She also revealed something new: that as the bidding competition began, many other city commissions were rooting for Philadelphia’s victory. They told her so when she attended a FIFA-led conference for the Local Host Committees in New York this summer.
“That was great,” she said.
And Hilferty said something that made the rounds widely in American football circles: When FIFA managers visited the city last September, they really liked what they saw. A few weeks later, Philadelphia’s stock was announced higher than any other bidder.
“We’ve put together that feeling like, ‘Wow, these people, they don’t just want that, they can do it,'” Hilferty said. [at the time]he told our folks… “You know, you guys have really distinguished yourselves.”
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The most important thing for fundraisers and taxpayers alike is that the stadium where the games will be held is actually there. And it really helps that Lincoln’s financial field doesn’t need the kinds of renovations that other 2026 venues will need, especially those with artificial turf or surfaces that are too narrow for football bases.
(Philly fans may want to know that the Dallas Cowboys are among the worst offenders.)
This will help local organizers focus on the fan experience outside the sports complex and downtown.
“We’re going to have a lot of people here, and it might be their first time visiting the US, and it might be their first time in Philadelphia,” said Angela Fall, CEO of Visit Philadelphia. “We also have a chance, for those folks who might be thinking Philly is just a place to eat cheese and run ‘Rocky’ grades, to show them another side of our city.”
»Read more: Philly celebrates victory as World Cup host: ‘The world is coming to Philadelphia and we are ready’