Feds an­nounce they’ll back 2026 World Cup pro­posal

The Daily Observer - - SPORTS - KUR­TIS LAR­SON

MON­TER­REY — Canada’s feds an­nounced Tues­day they’re back­ing the United 2026 World Cup pro­posal in ad­vance of the U.S., Mex­ico and Canada sub­mit­ting their tribid Fri­day in an ef­fort to coax the FIFA Congress away from se­lect­ing Morocco.

The North Africans — four-time World Cup bid losers — are mak­ing a late charge to bring the world’s big­gest sport­ing event back to Africa for the sec­ond time in 16 years.

There are grow­ing fears that Morocco, a coun­try of just 35 mil­lion, is a threat to play spoiler when FIFA mem­bers vote to award the 2026 tour­na­ment a day be­fore this sum­mer’s World Cup kicks off in Mos­cow.

As Lib­eral MP Kirsty Dun­can re­vealed the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment’s sup­port Tues­day morn­ing at Toronto’s BMO Field, the Moroc­cans were pre­par­ing to sub­mit a pro­posal that could per­suade FIFA mem­bers to turn away from the once-favoured United Bid.

Some are be­gin­ning to won­der if dis­graced FIFA boss Sepp Blat­ter’s re­cent on­line emer­gence is an in­di­ca­tion of yet an­other North Amer­i­can World Cup snub.

“Co-Host­ing re­jected by FIFA af­ter 2002 (also ap­plied in 2010 and 2018). And now: Morocco would be the log­i­cal host! And it is time for Africa again!” Blat­ter tweeted.

Yes, Blat­ter’s en­dorse­ment means about as much as a soft drink lob­by­ist en­dors­ing weight loss. How­ever, his words sparked a host of what-ifs and con­spir­acy the­o­ries this month, with some won­der­ing if Morocco might ac­tu­ally have an edge in the process.

While the United Bid is ex­pected to re­ceive the sup­port of CON­CA­CAF (North-Cen­tral Amer­ica and the Caribbean) and CONMEBOL (South Amer­ica), their com­bined 42 votes are less than the 53 votes Morocco is sure to re­ceive from CAF (Con­fed­er­a­tion of African Foot­ball) mem­bers. That leaves UEFA (Europe), AFC (Asia) and OFC (Ocea­nia) to get the even­tual win­ner’s tally up be­yond the needed 104 votes.

UEFA fed­er­a­tions could be tempted to back Morocco’s bid on the grounds that match times will be ideal for view­ers across Europe, the re­gion that also brings in a ma­jor­ity of TV rev­enue for soc­cer’s gov­ern­ing body. Fur­ther­more, Morocco is pitch­ing a much more com­pact tour­na­ment, fea­tur­ing venues within driv­ing dis­tance com­pared to the vast dis­tance be­tween, say, Ed­mon­ton and Mon­ter­rey — po­ten­tial host cities two board­ers apart, con­nected by a mas­sive five­hour flight.

Not that FIFA has con­sid­ered dis­tance be­tween sta­di­ums for pre­vi­ous . Take it from some­one who ven­tured into the Brazil­ian Ama­zon dur­ing the 2014 World Cup. Al­though there are ben­e­fits to matches be­ing hosted in close prox­im­ity, there’s some­thing spe­cial about ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a di­verse set of host cities. It’s part of the World Cup ex­pe­ri­ence – and some­thing few com­plained about four years ago.

Those rais­ing con­cerns over Moroc­can in­fra­struc­ture and sta­dium is­sues should have ven­tured down to Mon­ter­rey for Tues­day night’ s Cham­pi­ons League quar­ter­fi­nal. Con­di­tions here are sat­is­fac­tory, but well be­low the stan­dards set in pre­vi­ous World Cups held in Ger­many, France, South Korea and Japan.

As for sta­di­ums, Morocco’s prom­ise to build a num­ber of new venues might seem more ap­peal­ing than Canada po­ten­tially host­ing matches at Mon­treal’s Olympic Sta­dium or even BMO Field, a lovely MLS venue that’s nowhere near World Cup qual­ity.

The counter-ar­gu­ment, of course, is the United States has enough world class venues to host the men’s and women’ s World Cup sat the same time. Ad­di­tion­ally, Van­cou­ver’s BC Place is a venue wor­thy of host­ing a ma­jor com­pe­ti­tion.

Be­yond lo­gis­tics and venues and rev­enue, the con­ver­sa­tion sur­round­ing this sum­mer’s vote has turned po­lit­i­cal.

Dun­can cited Canada’s unique di­ver­sity as a sell­ing point dur­ing her pre­sen­ta­tion — which is great. But kum­baya talk is usu­ally in­ter­rupted with a re­minder that U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump re­mains a po­lar­iz­ing fig­ure around the globe.

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