2026 World Cup group: U.S. Soccer election won't affect co-host bid
The upcoming election for the presidency of the U.S. Soccer Federation will have no bearing on how the United Bid Committee goes about aiming to bring the 2026 World Cup to North America, says John Kristick, the UBC's executive director.
The U.S., Canada, and Mexico are bidding jointly to host the 2026 tournament. The bid committee's chairman is U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, who also sits on the FIFA Council.
Gulati is still mulling over whether to run for re-election as USSF president in February, when he will face competition from at least three other candidates.
"I have 142 days to work with my colleagues in Canada and Mexico to meet the requirements that FIFA puts forward. That's what were focused on," Kristick told reporters on a conference call on Monday.
"That being said, Sunil [is] a wonderful supporter, he's chairman of the bid committee, he's done a tremendous amount over the course of his career to support the game's development, and we welcome the support he continues to give us on the bid.
"What happens beyond that is in the hands of the processes and governance of U.S. Soccer."
In terms of the number of venues, Kristick said that the UBC is working on the basis that there will be between 12 and 16 cities that will host matches. The venues will be spread out across the three countries, and will be selected from a shortlist of 32 cities.
The UBC must submit the joint bid to FIFA by March 16. Until then, the UBC will be working with the candidate cities to come up with ideas for how best to promote the bid. A meeting will be held the week of Nov. 13 involving the UBC and each of the 32 candidate cities.
Once the bid is submitted, the outreach will become more external as the UBC tries to convince FIFA that North America, and not Morocco, should host the 2026 World Cup. The vote will take place next June at the FIFA Congress.
"During that interim period between March and June, we would anticipate that FIFA would have some form of observer/technical tour in North America to assess and address any specific questions that they might have based on the bid we submit," said Kristick. "But we have not been given specific dates yet."
Kristick indicated that a balancing act would have to be struck between the number of venues and costs. The concentration of cities would also be a factor. Making travel easy for players and fans will need to be weighed against bringing games to as many regions as possible.
"We believe across these three countries, we can put together a fantastic set of venues, and we'd love to see higher number of venues as opposed to a smaller number so we can spread the wealth as far as we can. But that will be something that at the right time we'll go through the process with FIFA to determine that."
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.