If Austin gets MLS, could 2026 World Cup bring soccer activity here?

The 2018 World Cup kicks off this week...and the soccer ball is already rolling on the 2026 World Cup.  It's going to be here in North America for the first time since 1994.

"Oh it's nuts.  Really, I think 1994 when it was here last, that really was the impetus for the growth of soccer here in America," said Keith Sandel who owns "Haymaker"  -- a destination for Austin soccer fans when big games are broadcast.

Austin soccer fans like Eric Thorson will be glued to TV's when this year's World Cup starts.

"I'm really excited.  I'm sad that the United States isn't in it but I think that my team and I will probably go to a couple of different places to watch the games if we can," Thorson said.

"Haymaker" is one of those places soccer fans will flock to.

"Absolutely, we'll be open for all of the World Cup games starting with the 7am games, 10am games, 2pm games and we're expecting a good turnout for that," Sandel said.          

"I encourage people that are curious about soccer and our City Council members, go over to some of these venues this weekend.  It's not even the United States playing and you are just going to see fan passion of why we love these game," said Josh Babetski, president and founder of the "MLS in Austin" supporters group.  

He says they were around long before Precourt Sports Ventures announced they wanted to move the "Columbus Crew" here to Austin.  Now their mission is just making sure that happens. 

"They want to give us a dollar a year for 20 years to use the land," Council Member Leslie Pool pointed out on Wednesday.

Pool says the proposal Precourt has put forward to build a $200 million stadium on the city-owned McKalla Place in her district...isn't a good proposal. On June 28th she's sponsoring an item that would open the door for other developers to make their pitches on what to do with the McKalla Place site.  

"If we level the playing field then let the best man win," she said.

"There are plenty of places in Austin that we can do things like affordable housing.  We have plenty of parks in that area near the Domain.  We do not have a lot of spots to build a top-flight professional soccer stadium for a pro-sports team," Babetski said.  

In 2026, cities like Dallas and Houston may be hosting World Cup games.  Austin is right in the middle.  While our 20,000-seat stadium wouldn’t be big enough to host a game, Babetski says it might bring other activity to Austin.  

"While we wouldn't actually host it in our stadium...training camps, friendlies ahead of the World Cup, all of these countries that are going to want to fly here early, they're going to want to go places.  You can't put them all in the same few cities," Babetski said.

Babetski says it would be a great opportunity for Austin to ride the 2026 World Cup wave.

"Crane shots of skylines on Fox Sports you know 1 and 2 during nationally televised matches, not to mention the economic boost of all of these fans from different countries coming in to expose themselves to soccer in our town as well as eating our restaurants, shopping our stores," Babetski said.

Babetski says it would be a great opportunity for Austin to ride the 2026 World Cup wave.

The City Council is not talking the soccer proposal at Thursday's council meeting but the effort to bring the team here called MLS2ATX is planning on having a World Cup watch party starting at 10am  -- where?  Austin City Hall.