Joint World Cup bidders: Trump hasn't sparked voter concerns
By RONALD BLUM
Organizers of the North American bid to host the 2026 World Cup insist FIFA members have not expressed concern about President Donald Trump's harsh words about foreigners or the U.S. Justice Department prosecuting corrupt soccer officials.
"Look, this is not geopolitics," new U.S. Soccer Federation President Carlos Cordeiro said Monday during a conference call. "We're talking about football and what fundamentally at the end of the day, what's the best interests of football and our footballing community, and we've had no backlash. We're very focused on the merits of our bid."
A joint bid by the United States, Mexico and Canada was submitted to FIFA on Friday along with a proposal by Morocco. The 207 other members of the international soccer governing body will vote on June 13 in Moscow.
Cordeiro, Mexican Football Federation President Decio de Maria and Canadian Soccer Association President Steven Reed spoke from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where they were meeting with members of the Association of South East Asian Nations, a subset of the Asian Football Confederation.
A solo bid by the U.S. for the 2022 World Cup was favored going into the 2010 vote but lost to Qatar. FIFA then changed the vote rules to give the decision back to the entire membership, which chose hosts prior to 1986, when the choice started being made by the roughly two dozen members of its executive committee.
"We believe that the member associations are going to judge us on the quality of the bids, on the merits of our bid, and that's it," Reed said. "We're very confident about what we're putting forward, and I don't think that we're concerned about politics."
Sixty games would be played in the U.S. under the bid plan, including all from the quarterfinals on. Three cities were included from Mexico and Canada, and both of those nations would host 10 games.
Holding a tournament in the U.S. would subject many of the documents generated to subpoena by U.S. federal prosecutors, who have secured numerous guilty pleas to corruption charges from soccer officials since 2015 and obtained convictions at trial last year against Juan Angel Napout, the former president of South American soccer's governing body, and Jose Maria Marin, the former president of Brazil's soccer federation.
"We haven't had any of those concerns raised by any of the members that we've met so far," Cordeiro said. "The reforms that FIFA undertook some years ago I think were spot on and we feel very confident that ultimately the right decision will be made."
Morocco's bid envisions spending almost $16 billion, including $3 billion to construct nine new stadiums, refurbish five others and build or renovate 130 training grounds.
The North American bid proposed venues be selected from among 23 stadiums that exist or already are under construction, including three each in Mexico and Canada. Sixteen of the U.S. stadiums are sites of NFL teams.
"The split of matches that we have proposed to FIFA frankly reflects the resources of the three countries," Cordeiro said. "We in the United States are blessed with some very substantial resources in terms of stadium infrastructure, of cities and so on, and that reflects the 60 matches that we have on the table. But at the end of the day there is a reason why FIFA have asked for or have encouraged joint bids and we do think that our joint bids taken together provide for a vastly superior bid than our competition."
AP Sports Writer Rob Harris contributed to this report.
Updated March 19, 2018