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Volume 25 No. 29

Events and Attractions

Cordeiro (c) strongly emphasized the profitability of a North American tournament in his final remarks
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

A joint bid made up of the U.S., Canada and Mexico won the rights today to host the '26 FIFA World Cup, "defeating Morocco and bouncing back from an unfathomable U.S. defeat to Qatar in voting" for the '22 event eight years ago, according to Steven Goff of the WASHINGTON POST. The North American bid won in a "landslide vote, 134-65." It will mark the "first time three countries have shared the planet’s most popular sporting event." The U.S. will "stage 60 of the 80 matches, including all from the quarterfinals on, while Mexico and Canada will get 10 apiece." Today’s vote "provided a much-needed victory for American soccer, which is in the process of rebuilding the men’s program" in the wake of failing to qualify for the World Cup in Russia. The bid victory will also "stack the U.S. sports landscape with major competitions in perhaps three consecutive years." Besides the '26 World Cup, U.S. Soccer is "tentatively planning to bid" for the '27 Women’s World Cup and L.A. is set to host the '28 Olympics. The North American bid "accentuated the quantity and quality of available stadiums, experience in staging major events and the infrastructure necessary to transport and house tens of thousands of visiting fans." They also said that they would make an $11B profit for FIFA, "money that would help nourish federations in need of funding to grow programs and build facilities" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 6/13).

INSIDE TODAY'S VOTE: USA TODAY's Martin Rogers notes both bids were "permitted 15 minutes to make a presentation to the FIFA members immediately before the vote." The North American bid "featured a youth team player from each of the three nations, beginning with a moving tale by 17-year-old Canadian Alphonso Davies" about how his family had been "welcomed after fleeing civil war in Africa." The three federation chiefs also spoke, with USSF President Carlos Cordeiro "strongly emphasizing the profitability of a North American tournament." Morocco's presentation took some "not-so-subtle shots at the U.S., highlighting the fact that guns are banned in Morocco" and stating that during the '94 World Cup, even "world-renowned soccer stars were unknown in America" (USATODAY.com, 6/13).

HITTING THE PAVEMENT: SI.com's Brian Straus notes Cordeiro, Canadian Soccer Association President Steven Reed and Mexican Football Federation President Decio de Maria "traveled the world over the past four months, meeting in person with more than 150 national federation representatives." Cordeiro has "been on the road constantly since winning the USSF’s presidential election in February" (SI.com, 6/13). ESPN.com's Sam Borden notes Cordeiro was the "frontman, sometimes visiting as many as three countries in a single day." Figuring Morocco was "likely to get most of the support in Africa, the North American bid focused on shoring up the Western Hemisphere and then targeted federations in Asia and Europe to push it over the top." The North American bid did have to "answer questions and address concerns about the political situation" in the U.S. -- much of it having to do with policies regarding foreigners put in place by President Trump -- but "largely played to its obvious strengths: money and infrastructure." Morocco was "always the outsider to win but any chances of success were hit hard by FIFA's evaluation report, published on June 1, which heavily favored" the North American bid (ESPN.com, 6/13).

RISK ANALYSIS: In Seattle, Geoff Baker writes winning the bid had "initially seemed a fait accompli until the election" of Trump and the "arrests in this country of numerous FIFA officials on corruption charges." But when the U.S. hosted the World Cup in '94, it "set an attendance record of 3.6 million over 52 matches." With 80 matches slated for '26, the majority of them in the U.S., the "lure of a North American bid proved too hard for FIFA to withstand." Not to mention, this continent had a "huge infrastructure advantage over Morocco, as well as an edge in security concerns given the North African country has long been viewed as a breeding ground for ISIS and Al Qaeda before it" (SEATTLETIMES.com, 6/13). YAHOO SPORTS' Leander Schaerlaeckens writes FIFA "made a smart and reasonable choice in selecting the North American bid." There is almost "no assembly required here, whereas Morocco basically had to build all the necessary infrastructure from scratch." As such, for the first time since the '06 World Cup, FIFA "went with the less risky option." The decision will "vault the American game forward a second time and all sorts of benefits will accrue to every corner of the sport" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/13).

MONEY MATTERS: In Toronto, Joe Callaghan writes there is "no more unpredictable entity in global sport than soccer’s governing body, even as it loudly claims to have cleaned up its act after being engulfed in financial scandal in recent times." Nothing "eases FIFA nerves quite like money" and the North American bid's profit projection "likely proved to be the most crucial factor as delegates cast their votes" (THESTAR.com, 6/13). ESPN's Taylor Twellman said, "It came down to one single thing, $14 billion dollars in revenue for FIFA and the United States or $7 billion for Morocco. We all know how FIFA reacts when that dollar sign has a few more zeros behind it" ("Get Up!," ESPN, 6/13).

POTUS POINTS: Trump tweeted this morning, "The U.S., together with Mexico and Canada, just got the World Cup. Congratulations - a great deal of hard work!" (TWITTER.com, 6/13). USA TODAY's Rogers writes, "In a stunning reversal after months of speculation as to how Trump might hurt the vote, it ultimately turned out that he helped win it." Since March, Trump "provided bid leaders with three letters" addressed to FIFA President Gianni Infantino, "guaranteeing that no incoming immigration crackdowns would impact players, administrators or fans coming to the U.S. for the World Cup." It was "one part of extensive but largely under-the-radar government support for the bid, and the letters took away the primary fear in the minds of FIFA federation members that could have persuaded them to vote for Morocco instead." As much as President Obama had "charisma that stretched far beyond American borders, that never translated into votes for big athletic extravaganzas." Obama came out "strongly for the U.S. World Cup campaign" for '18 and '22 as well, "getting chummy" with former FIFA President Sepp Blatter (USATODAY.com, 6/13). SI.com's Straus writes it is "uncertain" how much the letters "swayed the vote, but it was among the topics of conversation and contention" leading into today's vote (SI.com, 6/13).

GROWING THE GAMEFS1's Rob Stone said, "This is a game-changing moment for soccer in the States." FS1's Alexi Lalas: "This is awesome, not just for the sport and not just for the futre of the sport on the field, but off the field and the culture and the significance of this joint bid" ("First Things First," FS1, 6/13). In Philadelphia, Jonathan Tannenwald writes, "Expect soccer’s rapid growth in the United States to become even faster now." America’s "vast supply of corporate sponsors has already started flocking to soccer in recent years and will do so even more" between now and '26 (PHILLY.com, 6/13).

TWITTER REAX: Reaction to the FIFA vote poured in on Twitter. Here is a small sampling. SI's Grant Wahl: "Historic moment for soccer in North America." Boston Sports Journal's Greg Bedard: "Hopefully the US will have a viable soccer program by then." Former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Roberta Jacobson: "Always better when we work together." Former USMNT F Charlie Davies: "This is massive for North America and will take the game to a whole new level!" Landon Donovan: "Congrats to everyone who put in the tireless work to make it happen. How are we supposed to wait 8 more years?" The United Bid's official feed: "Thank you to all who supported our vision." Atlanta-based WZGC-FM's Jason Longshore: "Huge achievement, and great to see #ATLUTD supporters feature prominently in the presentation." NDP Group's Matt Powell: "Just to be clear, World Cup means nothing to sales in the world's largest sneaker market. WC is virtually meaningless to footwear sales anywhere. WC is all about jersey sales. Wholesale sales largely come BEFORE any games begin."

Tickets "were still unsold for 20 matches" at this year's FIFA World Cup just one day before the start of the tournament, according to Martyn Ziegler of the LONDON TIMES. Among those with tickets still available are England's opening match on Monday against Tunisia, while Russia's opening match against Saudi Arabia in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium "only sold out yesterday." FIFA "insisted that the number of matches that had yet to be sold out was not a reflection of a lack of public interest in the World Cup but a result of an extra 120,000 tickets being released only last week." FIFA will "keep its ticket sales website open until the day of the final on July 15." Few tickets are "expected to be available via touts due to Russia's stiff penalties," and FIFA has "gone to war with secondary ticket websites" (LONDON TIMES, 6/13).

FAN PRESENCE: ESPN.com's Mark Ogden noted the U.S. will "send more visiting supporters" to the World Cup than any other nation, "despite the failure of the national team to qualify for the tournament." More than 870,000 tickets "had been sold to fans in Russia" by the beginning of the week, but 88,825 ticket have been sold "in the U.S. since they became available to buy last September." Brazil is the "best-supported nation outside of the hosts and the U.S., with 72,512 tickets sold." Colombia (65,234), Mexico (60,302), Argentina (54,031) and Peru (43,583) have all "outsold England, traditionally one of the best-backed teams at a major tournament, who have so far seen just over 32,000 tickets bought" (ESPN.com, 6/12). In London, Jamie Johnson noted heightened political tensions between the U.K. and Russia, "fears of racism and homophobia and the high cost of travel to the World Cup appears to have put some fans off." England is "10th on the list of countries that have purchased tickets" (TELEGRAPH.co.uk, 6/12).