United '26 World Cup Bid Could Hinge On Letters From Trump
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).
Tonight and Tuesday night, Hard Rock Stadium will light up in the united bid colors or blue, red and green in advance of FIFA's vote on World Cup 2026. HRS provided image of what it looks like. pic.twitter.com/Al2q480Caz— Hal Habib (@gunnerhal) June 11, 2018