January 23, 2019
U.S., Mexico and Canada win joint bid for 2026 World Cup
MOSCOW--The United States, Canada and Mexico were awarded on Wednesday the right to host the 2026 World Cup, returning the world’s most popular sports competition to North America for the first time since 1994.

Over the past year, while disputes between the three countries threatened to derail their effort, U.S. soccer officials formed an alliance with their Mexican and Canadian counterparts that belied the tensions created by President Trump’s hard-line stance on issues such as trade and immigration.

The North American bid defeated Morocco in an unexpected landslide vote by members of FIFA, the sport’s governing body, 134-65. The three countries will begin making plans for an expanded 48-team tournament at 16 venues, the majority of them in the United States. It will be the first time the World Cup is shared by three countries.

“The unity of the three nations coming together was a very powerful message,” said U.S. Soccer Federation President Carlos Cordeiro, “and that was something we repeated over and over again.”

The joint victory was made more striking given that the political relationship between the United States and its longtime allies has grown more tense than it had been in decades. Trump this week withdrew the U.S. endorsement of a Group of Seven economic agreement issued at a summit hosted by Canada, then unleashed a Twitter attack on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Trump also imposed tariffs late last month on aluminum and steel from Canada and Mexico, sparking retaliatory action.

“There’s irony everywhere” in this decision, said Peter Donnelly, director of the Centre for Sport Policy Studies at the University of Toronto.

Despite the tensions with Canada and Mexico, Trump has been a vocal supporter of the World Cup bid. After the vote, Trump tweeted: “The U.S., together with Mexico and Canada, just got the World Cup. Congratulations — a great deal of hard work!”

The president did create problems for the bid this spring by threatening FIFA member countries that were planning to support Morocco. The Zurich-based organization did not take any action, but the issue hung over the bid right up to Wednesday’s vote.

Bid organizers did not believe the issue would derail the campaign, and they said they were grateful for the White House’s support. Although Trump will not be in office in 2026, backing from the administration was essential.

Asked if Trump could cause trouble by reneging on commitments, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said he is not worried: “I don’t think anyone tries to take over FIFA. FIFA belongs to football and the members of FIFA.”

The outcome soothed the sting of the U.S. defeat to tiny Qatar for the 2022 World Cup hosting rights eight years ago. It also came eight months after one of the lowest moments in U.S. soccer history, the failure of the men’s national team to qualify for this summer’s tournament in Russia, which will begin Thursday.

With the World Cup on the way, the United States is positioned for a blockbuster set of sporting events next decade: the 2026 World Cup, a potential 2027 Women’s World Cup and the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. The United States, which last hosted an Olympics in 2002 in Salt Lake City, had also lost out in bids to host the Summer Olympics in 2012 (New York) and 2016 (Chicago).

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto released a video statement, saying that the announcement was “a vote of confidence in Mexico’s organizational capacity, in the quality of its infrastructure and the services it offers.”

He added that it was proof that the three host countries were “deeply united.”

Trudeau congratulated the bid sponsors on Twitter and added, “It’s going to be a great tournament.”

Under an agreement reached when the bid was formulated last year, the United States is slated to host 60 of the 80 matches, including all from the quarterfinals on. Mexico and Canada will have 10 apiece. However, FIFA has the final say on such matters, leaving the possibility of changes.

Twenty-three cities, including Washington and Baltimore, are in the running to become the 16 match venues. In all likelihood, 11 of the 17 proposed U.S. sites will make the cut. A decision is not expected for another two years. (Source: The Washington Post)
Story Date: June 14, 2018
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