Commentary

Time is of essence for World Cup 2026 bid committee

With less than nine months before their combined World Cup 2026 bid must be submitted to FIFA, time is of the essence for the U.S., Canadian and Mexican federations. They've formed the United Bid Committee for handling the bid process and hired John Kristick, who worked on the USA's unsuccessful 2022 World Cup bid in 2010, as executive director.



Jim Brown, FIFA's former director of competitions and the managing director of the 2016 Copa Centenario, was appointed the managing director of technical operations. Both Kristick, the managing director of the USA Bid Committee in 2010, and Brown have had long careers in the international sports consulting business.

U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, chairman of the USA Bid Committee that lost out to Qatar (14-8 in the final round of voting) for the 2022 World Cup hosting rights, is United Bid Committee's chairman.

All five U.S. members of United Bid Committee were members of the 2022 bid committee: Carlos Cordeiro (who served as vice chairman of the 2022 bid and is now U.S. Soccer's vice president), Dan Flynn (U.S. Soccer CEO and general secretary), Don Garber (MLS commissioner), Donna Shalala (U.S. Soccer independent board member and until recently the president of the Clinton Foundation) and Gulati.

Three Canadians -- Concacaf president Victor Montagliani, Canada Soccer general secretary Peter Montopoli and Canada Soccer president Steven Reed -- and two Mexicans -- Mexican soccer federation general secretary and former international player Guillermo Cantu and Mexican soccer federation president Decio De Maria -- complete the board of directors.

Montopoli and Televisa vice president Yon De Luisa were named the bid directors for Canada and Mexico, respectively.

The U.S. presence equal to the combined Canadian and Mexican presence on the board reflects how U.S. Soccer is driving the process. The agreement reached on the combined bid calls for the USA to host 60 of the 80 games and Canada and Mexico to host 10 games each. The tournament schedule will be expanded from 64 to 80 games in 2026 to accommodate an expansion in the field from 32 to 48 teams.

The USA, Canada and Mexico will need to prepare the bid to meet FIFA's yet to be published technical requirements and submit them by March 2018. The North American nations pushed to expedite the bid process scheduled to be completed in 2020.

The FIFA requirements will include stadium agreements and government guarantees. In 2010, the U.S. World Cup 2022 bid included agreements with 20 stadiums in 18 markets.

Since then, a new line of large stadiums has opened (Levi's Stadium, host of the 2017 Gold Cup final, and Minneapolis' U.S. Bank Stadium) or will open soon (Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of the Falcons and MLS's Atlanta United). Stadiums for relocated NFL teams are slated to open in Los Angeles and Las Vegas in 2020.

There has been no public comment from President Donald Trump on the united bid but Gulati said in April it was addressed with the president and "he is fully supportive of the joint bid, encouraged the joint bid and especially pleased with the fact that Mexico is participating in this joint bid with us. I think those are all positives.”

Key dates:
Aug. 11, 2017. Deadline for bidding nations to express their interest about individual or joint bids. Morocco, a four-time World Cup bid loser (1994, 1998, 2006 et 2010), has been mentioned as possible bidder though Moroccan media suggest the Moroccan federation is cool to the prospects of mounting a solitary bid.
March 16, 2018. Bids must be submitted to meet FIFA's technical specifications (yet to be distributed). If no bid meets FIFA's terms, the 2026 hosting race will be opened up to all members (including Europe and Asia).
June 13, 2018. If any bid passes FIFA's technical requirements, it will be presented to the FIFA Congress in Moscow. Unlike other World Cup bid campaigns that went to the FIFA executive committee (since replaced by the FIFA council), the 2026 World Cup hosting rights will be voted upon by full membership of 211 federations.

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