Com­ing to Amer­ica

The Republican Herald - - SPORTS - BY ROB HARRIS AND GRA­HAM DUN­BAR

North Amer­i­can trio of U.s., canada and Mex­ico wins bid to host 2026 World cup.

MOSCOW — North Amer­ica will host the 2026 World Cup af­ter FIFA vot­ers over­whelm­ingly opted Wed­nes­day for the fi­nan­cial and lo­gis­ti­cal cer­tainty of a United States-led bid over a risky Moroc­can pro­posal for the first 48-team tour­na­ment.

The soc­cer show­piece will re­turn to the U.S. for the first time since 1994 af­ter gain­ing 134 votes, while Morocco got 65 at the FIFA Congress in Moscow, where the 2018 tour­na­ments starts to­day.

“Thank you for en­trust­ing us with this priv­i­lege,” U.S. Soc­cer Fed­er­a­tion Pres­i­dent Car­los Cordeiro told the congress. “The beau­ti­ful game tran­scends bor­ders and cultures.”

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump tweeted af­ter the vic­tory: “Con­grat­u­la­tions, - a great deal of hard work!”

While Trump has been feud­ing with Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau over tar­iffs and pol­icy af­ter the G-7 meet­ing and with Mex­i­can lead­ers about his pro­posed border wall, the heads of state are not heav­ily in­volved in this World Cup bid. Even if Trump wins re-elec­tion, his pres­i­dency would end be­fore the 2026 World Cup.

The vote by na­tional foot­ball fed­er­a­tions was pub­lic, in con­trast to se­crecy sur­round­ing the 2010 vote when FIFA’s elected board mem­bers picked Rus­sia to host in 2018 and Qatar in 2022, de­feat­ing the U.S.

The re­gional bid proved more ap­peal­ing this time and the North Amer­i­cans even col­lected 11 votes from Africa.

“The United bid was strong and if it was just the United States, I think Morocco would have beaten them,” said Cameroon fed­er­a­tion of­fi­cial Kevin Njomo, whose coun­try voted for Morocco. “Peo­ple have a soft spot for Mex­ico, es­pe­cially look­ing at Mex­ico as a lit­tle bit un­der-de­vel­oped and giv­ing them a chance. Canada is a good tourist des­ti­na­tion.

“But I think where it had the ad­van­tage was the World Cup would be more prof­itable in Amer­ica and it is a cap­i­tal­ist world.”

North Amer­ica op­ti­misti­cally promis­ing to de­liver $14 bil­lion in rev­enue helped, while the tour­na­ment won’t re­quire ma­jor con­struc­tion work re­quired on the 16 planned sta­di­ums, all of which al­ready ex­ist.

The U.S. pro­posed stag­ing 60 out of the 80 games in 2026, when 16 teams will be added to the tour­na­ment, leav­ing Canada and Mex­ico with 10 fix­tures each. But FIFA Pres­i­dent Gianni In­fantino sug­gested the split of games could change.

“They have made a de­ci­sion among them­selves but ul­ti­mately it will be up to FIFA to de­cide,” In­fantino said.

Morocco ap­peared too haz­ardous as a po­ten­tial host when all 14 venues had to be built or ren­o­vated as part of a $16 bil­lion in­vest­ment in new in­fra­struc­ture. The vote leaves Morocco reel­ing from a fifth fail­ure in a World Cup host­ing vote, with the con­ti­nent’s sole tour­na­ment com­ing in 2010 in South Africa.

Moroc­can Prime Min­is­ter Saad Ed­dine El Oth­mani shared the na­tional dis­ap­point­ment but tweeted his thanks to the bid or­ga­niz­ers for “this com­mon dream.”

Moroc­can sports jour­nal­ist Omar Chraybi ac­knowl­edged that “tech­ni­cally speak­ing, it’s un­der­stand­able — the U.S. bid ca­pac­ity sur­passes Morocco’s.” Yet he didn’t lose hope, say­ing, “The world still looks at Africa as an un­der­dog, but we can’t af­ford to give up.”

While Morocco’s com­bined tick­ets and hos­pi­tal­ity rev­enue pro­jected to be $1.07 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to FIFA anal­y­sis, North Amer­ica would gen­er­ate $2 bil­lion more.

Canada will host men’s World Cup matches for the first time, while Mex­ico gets its first taste of the event since 1986.

“To have a mes­sage com­ing from foot­ball that says ac­tu­ally Mex­ico, Canada and the United States to­gether can or­ga­nize the big­gest sport­ing and so­cial event to­gether,” In­fantino said. “It is a nice mes­sage.”

The 87,000-ca­pac­ity MetLife Sta­dium out­side New York — home of the NFL’s Gi­ants and Jets — is pro­posed for the fi­nal.

Spain fires coach 2 days be­fore World Cup

BARCELONA, Spain — Some peo­ple in Spain agree that na­tional team coach Julen Lopetegui had to go. Oth­ers be­lieve the chaos on the eve of the World Cup just made a bad sit­u­a­tion worse.

Lopetegui was fired Wed­nes­day, two days be­fore Spain’s open­ing match against Por­tu­gal, be­cause he ac­cepted a job Tues­day to coach Real Madrid next sea­son.

“It is clear to me that this was poorly han­dled and that the na­tional team will be harmed by it,” Spain fan Jordi Casares said. “Madrid put its in­ter­ests first, as did Lopetegui, and (Span­ish fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dent Luis) Ru­biales was left in a very tough spot. No­body thought about what was best for the na­tional team.”

Spain en­ters the World Cup in Rus­sia with high hopes of com­pet­ing for the ti­tle it won in 2010.

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