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Volume 25 No. 26

Events and Attractions

Trump said he is confident the U.S. would host the '26 FIFA World Cup in a open and festive manner
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

If the North American bid for the '26 World Cup is victorious tomorrow, U.S. soccer leadership "will thank one person for helping them convince the world" that President Trump's policies would not be a factor: "Trump himself," according to Andrew Das of the N.Y. TIMES. Trump has provided U.S. soccer officials with "three letters addressed" to FIFA President Gianni Infantino. Each letter is "part of an extensive but largely unseen" U.S. government effort to "support the bid." The letters "contained increasingly specific guarantees that foreign teams, officials and even fans will face no restrictions on entering the U.S." The letters "assured officials voting on the event" that Trump's "hard-line stance on visas would not apply to the World Cup." In the most recent letter, dated May 2, Trump cites the '96 Atlanta and '02 Salt Lake City Games and the '94 World Cup as "examples of major international events" hosted by the U.S. and assures Infantino -- and "by extension FIFA voters -- that 'I am confident that the United States would host the 2026 FIFA World Cup in a similarly open and festive manner.'" A second Trump term "would end" in '25. U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro said that the mere existence of the letters has "eased the minds of some voters." Just as Morocco has enlisted current and former government ministers to take its bid abroad, a source said that the U.S. government has at times "played an even more active role," as the National Security Council has "been in touch with other countries whose votes could help" the North American bid (NYTIMES.com, 6/12).

SPEND IT LIKE BECKHAM: In L.A., Kevin Baxter notes Cordeiro has "remained on the offensive by trumpeting the potential economic benefits of a North American World Cup." Cordeiro said, "This shouldn't be a geopolitical discussion or decision. It should be based on the merits of the bid. The merits of the bid, we feel we have a compelling proposal." Chief among those merits is the $14B in revenue and $11B in profits the North American bid is "projecting for a North American tournament" (L.A. TIMES, 6/12). In DC, Ken Bensinger writes by "almost any measure," the '26 bid from North America should "handily carry the day." The only advantage Morocco "seems to have is the fact that it's on the same time zone as Western Europe, where television viewers would be able to watch World Cup matches in lucrative prime time." That, and the "fact that it's not the United States" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 6/12).

PLAY THE NUMBERS: The AP's Graham Dunbar reported Morocco "tried to heap doubt on North American promises" of multibillion dollar '26 World Cup profits yesterday. Morocco Football Federation President Fouzi Lekjaa said there is "lots of uncertainty" in the North American pledges of $14.3B revenue for FIFA. Lekjaa said, "That doesn't correspond either to historical facts of future extrapolation, it's an exercise that goes beyond that." A FIFA-appointed panel assessing the two candidates "already noted the 'significantly higher' number than Morocco's projected income" of $7.2B for FIFA from a 48-team tournament. Morocco's "counterattack" is that $5B "pure profit for FIFA would be a World Cup record" (AP, 6/11).

SEPP'S SHADOWS: USA TODAY's Martin Rogers wrote if the majority of FIFA member nations "support the bid, it would be a major lift for the game in the U.S., and go a significant way toward off-setting the dampening effect of that qualification failure" by the USMNT this year. Losing the bid "isn't going to send the soccer train into reverse, yet the benefits of welcoming the world's biggest sports event to American soil are multiple and obvious." The United bid is "rock-solid," but what should "make American fans nervous, and which gives the only other bidder -- Morocco -- a chance of success, is that such things within soccer's global political jungle are never as they seem." FIFA "may have cleaned out the worst of its corrupt elements, yet it remains as susceptible as ever to the whims of bureaucrats and the cronyism of a minority" (USATODAY.com, 6/11). NBC Sports' Roger Bennett tweeted, "If US-Mexico-Canada bid wins, it will fundamentally transform profile of the game in this country. Yet am still not over shock of FIFA electing to give '18 to Russia and '22 to Qatar. Dream for the Best, expect the Worst" (TWITTER.com, 6/12).

MAKE OR BREAK: SI.com's Grant Wahl wrote what happens with the bid will "nevertheless have a massive impact on the future of soccer" in the U.S.,"for better or for worse." After the "colossal failure of missing out" on '18, losing the vote to Morocco "would be another giant kick in the teeth for the organization -- and a redux of the U.S.'s upset loss to Qatar for the World Cup '22 hosting rights" back in '10. If the United bid "wins, on the other hand, U.S. organizers say it will take soccer to an even higher level on the American sports landscape, creating millions of new fans" (SI.com, 6/11). In Philadelphia, Jonathan Tannenwald wrote there is a "fear that America is being set up for another gut punch" like Qatar in '10, and "like the bid itself, this one would be even bigger" (PHILLY.com, 6/11).

LIGHT IT UP: Houston City Hall and Hard Rock Stadium will be lit up in support of the North American bid (THE DAILY). M&T Bank Stadium also will "glow red, white and blue" tonight (BALTIMORE SUN, 6/12).

Crane pushed for a move to the fall because Houston's summer weather would not attract sizeable galleries
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The PGA Tour has "accepted in principle" a "sponsorship-package proposal" from Astros Owner Jim Crane to take over the Houston Open, according to sources cited by Dale Robertson of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. A finalized deal would "ensure the 72-year golf tournament will continue for at least five more years." The next event "will be played the second week of October at the Golf Club of Houston," where it has been held since '06, "meaning it's moving to the fall for the first time on a regularly-scheduled basis." A vacant pre-U.S. Open slot "had been discussed, but Crane was insistent that Houston's sultry summer weather wouldn't be conducive to attracting sizeable galleries." Instead, the tournament will "apparently be the first or second event" of the '18-19 PGA Tour season. Crane has admitted he "hopes to parlay personal friendships with elite players such as Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson into a stronger field than might be expected for an early fall event" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 6/12).

The PGA Tour Greenbrier Classic returns in three weeks, and resort Owner and West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice "took a shot at golf’s governing body" in wake of the flooding that cancelled the '16 event, according to Grant Traylor of the Huntington HERALD-DISPATCH. Several Tour players like Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson have been "ambassadors for the resort in recent years" and are expected to play this year. Justice "lauded those players for their help in getting the word out to restore The Greenbrier." He said, “Tour players really stepped up and helped, whether it was Bubba and [wife] Angie or Phil Mickelson and on and on. Ask yourself what did the PGA Tour do? What did they do? You’ll find hollow answers.” He added, “This tournament is not here because of the PGA [Tour]. This tournament is not here because of the insurance companies coming through and doing what they are supposed to do.” Traylor notes after the cancellation of the '16 event, there were "whispers that The Greenbrier Resort was in trouble, along with" the tournament itself. Justice said, “A lot of people cast stones at The Greenbrier’s troubles and The Greenbrier’s struggles or The Greenbrier getting back to where it was. People can be really cruel, to tell you the truth.” Justice noted that he and staff were able to get the tournament "back off the ground, just one year after" what he called "the worst weather-related event that I know of in our state." One rumor "not addressed by Justice" was whether the tournament "would move to another time on the PGA Tour schedule" (Huntington HERALD-DISPATCH, 6/12).

Reps for Wilder (r) said the offer he accepted is a two-fight deal with terms for a rematch in the U.S
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Heavyweight world title holder Deontay Wilder's co-manager Shelly Finkel said that Wilder has "agreed to terms" with fellow unbeaten boxer Anthony Joshua's camp for them to "meet for the undisputed title later this year in Joshua's home country" of the U.K., according to Dan Rafael of ESPN.com. Whether the fight "gets signed remains to be seen." Joshua is a "massive star" in the U.K., where he has "drawn sellout crowds for his past three fights: 90,000 at Wembley Stadium in London and 78,000 for his past two fights at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales." He "insisted on having the fight there, even if the overall revenue for the event could be greater in Las Vegas." The Wilder camp "held out hope" of him agreeing to come to the U.S. Finkel said that the offer Wilder accepted is a "two-fight deal with terms agreed to for a rematch that would take place" in the U.S. She added that the "target date is Sept. 15, but the fight could be in October or November because Sept. 15 is the proposed date for the rematch between Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin, which they would not compete with." While Joshua's fights are televised on Sky Box Office PPV in the U.K., his contract with Showtime "expired following his March 31 title unification win over Joseph Parker, so a Joshua-Wilder fight could go to the highest bidder in the U.S." (ESPN.com, 6/11).

MOBILE HOT SPOT? In Las Vegas, Gilbert Manzano cites a source as saying that Alvarez’ promoter, Golden Boy Promotions, made a "formal request to reserve T-Mobile Arena" on Sept. 15 for his rematch with Golovkin. The Nevada Athletic Commission is "expected to approve the request at its monthly meeting Thursday" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 6/12).