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Gulati warns Trump factor could hit United bid to land 2026 World Cup

President of the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) Sunil Gulati with Canadian CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani (left) and Mexican Football Federation President Decio De Maria after announcing a unified bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. (Photo: Getty Images)
by Keir Radnedge, AIPS Football Commission Chairman
LONDON, January 19, 2018 - Sunil Gulati, head of the three-way bid to bring the 2026 World Cup to the United States, Canada and Mexico, has warned about the threat posed by international political factors.

Gulati is retiring president of the US Soccer Federation and a member of the council of world federation FIFA whose congress will decide on June 13 between the cohosting proposal and a rival bid from Morocco.

The United bid has always been considered clear favourite but its winning potential in terms of votes among the world’s football associations could be harmed by the outpourings of President Donald Trump, in particular his reported description of African countries as “shithole nations.”

Gulati referred to Trump foreign policies when he told a coaches convention: “This is not only about our stadiums and our hotels and all that. It’s about perceptions of America, and it’s a difficult time in the world. So there’s only certain things we can control.

“We can’t control what happens at the 38th parallel in Korea, we can’t control what happens with embassies in Tel Aviv, and we can’t control what happens with climate change accords.

“We have to go out and convince what eventually will be 104 voters to vote for us. We would like to get a few extra to not make it a one-vote swing. But this won’t be easy.”

Gulati stands down next month as president of US Soccer. Eight candidates for the succession have declared themselves with Eric Wynalda, the former US forward, having been endorsed this week by the North American Soccer League.

Other nominees are US women’s goalkeeper Hope Solo, former World Cup defender Paul Caligiuri, Kathy Carter (president of US Soccer’s marketing partner), Carlos Cordeiro (USSF vice-president), Boston lawyer Steve Gans, Kyle Martino (ex-MLS player and NBC broadcaster) and another lawyer in Michael Winograd.

Earlier this week Victor Montagliani, the Canadian president of the central and north American confederation CONCACAF, responded directly comments which Trump has denied making in a meeting with lawmakers and advisers.

Montagliani said: “In the footballing community we understand that diversity of experience and background provides strength to the team. The CONCACAF family stands alongside those in and from Haiti, El Salvador and around the world, in reminding that all are welcome on the field. #UNITY.”

The World Cup award system has been changed by FIFA since the scandal over the organisation and conduct of the 2018-2022 votes.

This time around a technical study group will submit a report on bidders to the FIFA Council which will then submit its own recommended bidders to congress. The votes of FIFA Council members and national associations will be open to public scrutiny for the first time.

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