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United 2026 promises 'no stone unturned' in pursuit of World Cup votes to make it second time lucky

Sunil Gulati, (center), Canadian CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani (left) and Mexican Football Federation President Decio De Maria hold up a signed unified bid for the 2026 soccer world cup on April 10, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
by Keir Radnedge, AIPS Football Commission Chairman

LONDON, March 16, 2018 - This is Bid Book Day. The FIFA Council is meeting in Colombia, reviewing proposals to reshape world football’s supporting acts, but the focus on the headlining World Cup itself is back at headquarters in Zurich.

United States plus junior partners Canada and Mexico are competing with Morocco to corral the 2026 finals. In Zurich they are handing over formal tomes for the sake of the photographers but the in-depth paraphernalia is scripted not in print but in electronic bibles.

Favourite is United 2026, considering the handover as firing the starting pistol to high-intensity campaigning ahead of the assessments by an evaluation panel of FIFA technocrats, then the governing council ahead of an open vote by congress on June 13 in Moscow.

Unlucky 13 for one - United’s leadership refuses to acknowledge a perceived loss of focus partly through the USSF’s presidential election, partly through an element of entitlement after the 2022 bid defeat by Qatar and partly through the opposition coming from ‘only’ Morocco.

A positivity parade is promised now that serious campaigning can begin. If United has slipped below the radar then, according to bid executive director John Kristick, this is only because the heavy attention has been administrative, lining up the candidate cities and translating FIFA’s demands on everything from security to taxation.

All this had to be accomplished in double quick time by both bids since they were informed of FIFA’s specifications only last October.

The FIFA branding eased slightly United’s task of winnowing down its prospective venue cities. Chicago, Minneapolis and Vancouver all fell by the wayside for fear of signing blank cheques to an organisation short on credibility stateside.

Morocco plans a revelatory media briefing on Saturday. In the meantime United has seized the day in talking up its strengths.

The electronic book offers 24 chapters plus supplementary material from environmental and human rights studies, all adding up to around 1,000 pages plus a 25-page executive summary and hosting contracts across cities in the three countries running to tens of thousands of pages.

Challenge now for Kristick & Co is to sell the bid into the notoriously complex political maelstrom represented by FIFA’s 207 voting membership (excluding the bidding quartet).

He said: “We won’t be sitting on our laurels. The campaigning phase will be very intense and we have an inspection tour some time in April which is only a month away.”

The pillars of United wisdom are being built on “the power of unity of three nations coming together to stage what would be the largest-ever World Cup – the first with 48 teams and 80 matches - and thus establishing a blueprint to encourage co-hosting to encourage smaller countries to join their neighbours and bid in the future.”

No new building is needed. Stadia, airports etc are all in place. Not that a similar boast quite carried the Olympic day for Los Angeles. The City of the Angels was bested by Paris in pursuit of the 2024 Games and walked away with the 2028 consolation instead.

But in 2026 World Cup bidding there is no fall-back position: it’s all or nothing.

Hence Kristick’s own focus on United’s target of “building the most successful World Cup ever.” That would certainly be guaranteed from generating $2bn by selling out stadia with an average capacity of 68,000 each.

As for complacency, forget it. Kristick said: “There’s zero complacency. Nothing is being taken for granted. This is competitive. We’re keeping the bar high. So the member associations will be looking at not only what’s in the best interest of FIFA, of the World Cup, not just in 2026 but the years ahead.

“No stone will be left unturned and no vote will be taken for granted.”

United 2026 candidate cities:

** Herewith the 23 cities from which United 2026 will whittle down its final selection of 16 – if it wins host rights.

Canada: Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto.

Mexico: Guadalajara, Mexico City, Monterrey

United States: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New York/New Jersey, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, Washington DC.

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