Dallas’ FIFA World Cup 2026 Tech Roundtable Takes the Long View, With a Smart City Focus

Spearheaded by the North Texas Innovation Alliance, initial planning for the 2026 event foresees lasting regional benefits ranging from public safety and energy efficiency to traffic management.

Jennifer Sanders, executive director of the North Texas Innovation Alliance, says technology and infrastructure investments made for the FIFA World Cup 2026 can be leveraged to improve the quality of life of North Texas residents long after the event is over.

Earlier this month, the nonprofit group co-hosted a closed technology roundtable with the City of Fort Worth that focused on innovation initiatives around the World Cup. Dallas last year was named a host city for the event—a professional soccer tournament held every four years featuring national soccer teams—for the first time since 1994. And NTXIA, which is a consortium of municipalities, government agencies, tech companies, and academic institutions working to implement a smart region strategy for North Texas, is playing a key role in local preparations for the tournament.

FIFA roundtable Connor Sadro, North Central Texas Council of Governments; Caroline Eckel, NTXIA, James Waddell, Modii, James Emory, Modii, Yumna Bham, NTXIA, Todd Brown, Cisco, Daniel Burnham, City of Arlington, Ben Bhatti, Dallas Regional Chamber, Jen Sanders, NTXIA, Gloria Salinas, Frisco Economic Development Corporation, Carlo Capua, City of Fort Worth, Jason Cooley, City of Frisco, Jason Sands, Fort Worth Sports Commission, Monica Paul, Dallas Sports Commission

From left: Participants in the panel were Connor Sadro, North Central Texas Council of Governments; Caroline Eckel, NTXIA; James Waddell, Modii; James Emory, Modii; Yumna Bham, NTXIA; Todd Brown, Cisco; Daniel Burnham, City of Arlington; Ben Bhatti, Dallas Regional Chamber; Jen Sanders, NTXIA; Gloria Salinas, Frisco Economic Development Corporation; Carlo Capua, City of Fort Worth; Jason Cooley, City of Frisco; Jason Sands, Fort Worth Sports Commission; and Monica Paul, Dallas Sports Commission.

“An event the magnitude of the World Cup presents opportunities to zoom out, get creative, and think big,” Sanders says. “Seizing and shepherding those opportunities is the key.”

Sanders, who also co-founded NTXIA, says the goal of her group is to “thread ‘big idea’ innovation projects throughout World Cup planning” that will have long-range impacts. Those impacts could range from parking and airport logistics to public safety, sustainability, and cybersecurity.

Jennifer Sanders

“The implementation of smart city infrastructure and a collaborative tech consortium between cities and municipalities ramping up for the World Cup will have transformative long-term benefits for the region,” Sanders says. “By establishing such innovations now, the region can develop a solid foundation for sustainable urban development and improved quality of life.

“The smart city infrastructure, including sensors, data analytics and connectivity, can be repurposed after the event to address various city challenges like traffic management, energy efficiency, waste management, and public transportation. These are projects that cities have dreamed of implementing that could be realized through the proving ground that this event provides.”

In the realm of public safety, Sanders says innovations and new smart technology could lead to faster response times in case of an emergency at the World Cup.

“For example, using a network of sensors and cameras, authorities can detect crowd density and manage crowd control measures to prevent overcrowding and aid traffic flow, particularly in travel between accommodations, events, and fan-fests occurring across the region,” she says. “Additionally, advanced analytics and predictive models can help anticipate potential security threats, enabling proactive security measures to be deployed effectively.

“Emerging solutions that can identify and facilitate interventions to human trafficking is a critical threat that we also believe technology can support.”

Challenges and opportunities discussed

At the tech roundtable on June 12, NTXIA and the City of Fort Worth hosted representatives from the Dallas Sports Commission and the Fort Worth Sports Commission, as well as representatives from municipalities, regional planning groups, economic development organizations, nonprofits, and the private sector.

While the initial discussion focused on broad challenges and opportunities connected with the 2026 event, future meetings will hone in on the participants’ individual priorities and perspectives.     

Sanders says people and organizations interested in inquiring about future World Cup roundtables should contact NTXIA at [email protected].

Dallas is one of the 2026 World Cup’s 16 host cities in three countries, along with Atlanta, Boston, Guadalajara, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Miami, Monterrey, New York/New Jersey, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, and Vancouver.

NTXIA will be working with these host cities as well as learning from other cities that previously hosted the event, Sanders says.

AT&T Stadium in Arlington will be one of the main venues for the 2026 tournament. The venue for the big final match hasn’t been announced yet.

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