SBJ/May 19-25, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Single-country bid ‘best chance’ for 2026 Cup

Jeffrey Webb is celebrating his second anniversary as CONCACAF president this week, having been named to the position on May 23, 2012, after serving 21 years as the president of the football association of his native Cayman Islands. Webb, 50, is also a vice president and executive committee member of FIFA, which is presenting the World Cup next month in Brazil.

CONCACAF (the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) had four national teams qualify for this year’s World Cup: the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica and Honduras.

Webb visited New York from CONCACAF’s headquarters in Miami last week, traveling to town for meetings as well as an appearance at Univision’s upfront presentation. He also hosted a roundtable discussion over breakfast with five reporters, including SportsBusiness Journal staff writer Christopher Botta. Following are excerpts from that conversation.


Photo by: NEWSCOM
Are you looking to bring the World Cup back to the U.S. in 2026?

WEBB:
FIFA is looking for a CONCACAF location for 2026, not just the U.S.

What countries from your confederation do you expect to submit bids?

WEBB:
We’ve had two so far that have expressed interest: the U.S. and Canada.

Would you consider a joint bid by the U.S. and Canada?

WEBB:
It is possible. FIFA has done it in the past, in 2002 with Japan and Korea, and the experience was not too [good]. Costs increase by having two different local organizing committees and two countries. From my memory, it was a logistical nightmare.

Do you think the U.S. with Canada would be better?

WEBB:
It would be much easier, and we’ve learned from the experience from 2002. But getting the U.S. and Canada to agree to co-host is another matter. Our best chance is to put one country, one bid forward. That gives us the best opportunity.

What’s the timeline for CONCACAF to submit a bid?

WEBB:
A decision has to be made by 2017, so our process should start in 2015.
  
What do you think of the strides MLS has made recently with expansion to 22 clubs with New York, Orlando and Atlanta — and possibly more, with Miami a front-runner — and its new television deals with ESPN, Fox and Univision?

WEBB:
It’s tremendous. MLS is doing a great job. I work very closely with [Commissioner] Don Garber. The exposure the game is going to get from the networks is great. Expansion … I think having 22 teams is good. I definitely would not encourage any more, to be honest with you. You have to look at some point at the quality of the game. If you go beyond [22 teams], you’re stretching it.

What would you like to see more of from soccer in the U.S.?

WEBB:
I’d like to continue to see more soccer on a grassroots level, more accessibility for the game, more in the inner cities.

How often do you speak with [FIFA President] Sepp Blatter?

WEBB:
Whenever I need to. A few times a month. FIFA is in a great place — from a football standpoint, a World Cup standpoint, a commercial standpoint.

How much longer do you see yourself as CONCACAF president? (His term concludes in 2015.)

WEBB:
I fell in love with the sport at a young age. I started playing at 9 years old. I went to high school in Tampa and was back there in the old NASL days of the Tampa Bay Rowdies and New York Cosmos. I was with the Cayman Islands [as president] for 20 years. As long as God blesses me and gives me breath, I’m going to be involved in the game at some level.

Is there another step you’d like to take in soccer, possibly with FIFA?

WEBB:
I don’t know what’s going to happen. In my whole life, I’ve never said no to the game. As much as the game has given me, I could never pay it back. If there’s another role for me someday, who knows?

What are your goals for the four teams representing CONCACAF at the World Cup in Brazil?

WEBB:
For us, it’s about getting out of the group stage. You look at our teams that have qualified, in terms of technical staff: It’s obviously world-class. We’re looking for two teams to get into the Round of 16 and hopefully into the quarterfinals.


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