With the excitement of the World Cup coming to an end, soccer fans across the country are rejoicing at the news of the US being awarded the hosting rights to the 2026 World Cup in a combined bid made with Mexico and Canada –– U.S. cities are keeping their fingers crossed in the hopes of reaping the sizable economic rewards of a World Cup in their backyard. A new study by Boston Consulting Group found that North America could benefit by as much as $5 billion in economic activity — with individual cities bringing in as much as $500 million.
But there’s another World Cup playing out every single day in big cities and small towns from coast to coast that’s providing an even bigger jolt to our local economies. In 2016, studies showed that economic activity generated from international students studying in the United States added nearly $40 billion to the U.S. economy while creating over 400,000 jobs. That’s eight World Cups a year spread across every single state in the country. If these trends continue, our economy will be on the receiving end of $400 billion from international students before the first coin toss of the 2026 World Cup. Not a bad return on our country’s 7th largest export.
And there is little reason to think the flow of international students won’t grow in the coming years if we continue to invest in their success and student experience here. The U.S. currently lags well behind Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada in terms of the percentage of international university students. Despite this, we are headed in the right direction as more and more American universities understand that international students can do even more than boost the local and national economy, adding richness and perspective to campuses across that nation, and, not to mention, revenue to support the efforts of universities as they make the capital investments needed to stay competitive.
As we look towards 2026 — with hope of a match at Gillette Stadium outside Shorelight HQ in Boston — let’s continue to support the global aspirations of our universities. We all benefit when international students win.