World Cup will get millions in public funding from Miami-Dade for 2026 games

The World Cup soccer extravaganza secured nearly $36 million in public funding and services on Tuesday as Miami-Dade commissioners defended the need for tax dollars to subsidize the seven matches coming to Hard Rock Stadium in 2026.

Facing backlash on the original proposal to commit $46 million to the event, the commission voted for a smaller funding package that covers early installments of cash subsidies to be paid by the end of the year. That leaves open the possibility for organizers to receive the rest of the requested public dollars as the summer games get closer.

“We just slashed this ... because it looks very heavy,” said Commissioner Anthony Rodriguez, the board’s vice chair. “But we might need more.”

READ MORE: The original $46 million request for World Cup costs sparked controversy

Miami-Dade’s World Cup funding proposal revived the sometimes prickly debate about how much the local government should spend subsidizing sports. The county said it paid $10 million in 2020 to subsidize Super Bowl when it was last in Miami Gardens, and promoters of World Cup say the global soccer tournament promises to be a much bigger deal when it brings a quarter-final match and six other games to Hard Rock as part of its North American schedule.

Daniel Perez, the Miami-Dade Republican on track to be Florida House speaker later this year, last week called on commissioners to reject the funding package because “we have so many needs in our county.” Miami-Dade’s Democratic mayor, Daniella Levine Cava, also said she had “concerns” about the original $46 million proposal.

The smaller package passed 10 to 2, with commissioners Danielle Cohen Higgins and René Garcia voting against it. Commissioner Kionne McGhee did not attend the meeting.

“I think it’s too high of a price tag,” Cohen Higgins said after the vote.

She also criticized the proposal for having no details about why the money was needed. The sponsor of the proposal, Commission Chair Oliver Gilbert, said in a press conference that he did not receive a written request for funding from local World Cup organizers before submitting his original legislation calling for Miami-Dade to spend $46 million on World Cup.

There were two parts to the original funding request for the seven World Cup games scheduled for Miami Gardens over seven weeks in June and July 2026. The first involved $25 million in donated government services, including police and paramedic staffing at Hard Rock that is paid for by the stadium for Miami Dolphins games and by organizers during special events not subsidized by Miami-Dade. That part of the request was approved.

The second part involved $21 million in cash, with half paid in 2024 and the other half in 2025. Gilbert modified his proposal to drop the 2025 cash pledge, reducing the overall total of $46 million to $35.5 million.

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, the retired cruise executive recruited to run the FIFA World Cup 2026 Miami Host Committee, told commissioners to expect significant spending in the local economy and the kind of worldwide exposure that’s hard to quantify.

“The benefit to this community is almost priceless if you think about being on the global stage,” she said. For local spending, Lutoff-Perlo pointed to an economic-impact study commissioned by Super Bowl organizers in 2020 that touted about $500 million in economic impact in Miami-Dade. With three of the seven World Cup games in Miami Gardens considered to be high draws — two qualifying games on the way to the final and a consolation match — Lutoff-Perlo said the 2026 impact should be more than $1.5 billion.

She said the group plans to raise more than $100 million from the private sector, on top of the contributions from local governments. In 2022, Miami-Dade also awarded the Miami Dolphins, owner of the Hard Rock, a $15 million bonus for securing World Cup as part of a long-standing deal that provides public funding to offset some of the costs of a stadium renovation the team said cost about $750 million.

Nobody at Tuesday’s meeting presented information from 2020 on how Superbowl spending translated to extra tax income to cover the $10 million Miami-Dade said it paid to subsidize the NFL championship or how the outlays for World Cup would impact future county budgets.

Before voting against the funding package, Garcia said he wanted more information to ensure the dollars are spent appropriately. Gilbert’s proposal has the county’s tax-funded tourism bureau managing the county’s contributions to World Cup.

“That is the people’s money,” Garcia said.