Our view: Win­ning ‘NAFTA Bid’ shows virtues of team­work

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS / OPINION -

Script writ­ers could not have come up with a World Cup more freighted with sym­bol­ism.

It starts with the ab­sence of Team USA from this year’s global soc­cer tour­na­ment, which starts to­day in Rus­sia. Amer­ica’s fail­ure to qual­ify seems sadly em­blem­atic of a na­tion turn­ing in­ward.

For­tu­nately, the sym­bol­ism doesn’t end there. Wed­nes­day brought the wel­come news that a joint bid of the United States, Canada and Mex­ico had won the right to host the 2026 World Cup.

Known for­mally as the “United Bid” (and in­for­mally as the “NAFTA Bid”), the ef­fort showed the ben­e­fit of form­ing al­liances to thwart anti-Amer­i­can sen­ti­ments. It also stands as a loud procla­ma­tion that the three coun­tries can ac­com­plish more by work­ing to­gether than by pick­ing fights with each other.

At a time when the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has been in­sult­ing Canada and other trusted al­lies, U.S. Soc­cer Fed­er­a­tion Pres­i­dent Car­los Cordeiro and his coun­ter­parts were cir­cling the planet, liv­ing out of ho­tel rooms, and gamely mak­ing the case that North Amer­ica, not Morocco, should host the World Cup. As a re­sult of the 134-65 vote in fa­vor of the United Bid, the con­ti­nent's econ­omy — par­tic­u­larly its hos­pi­tal­ity and air­line sec­tors — will get a siz­able jolt in the sum­mer of 2026.

In raw dol­lars, the USA will be the great­est ben­e­fi­ciary, as the pro­posal calls for it to host 60 of the 80 matches, in­clud­ing all from the quar­ter­fi­nals on. But Canada and Mex­ico are huge win­ners, too, be­cause nei­ther could re­al­is­ti­cally host the tour­na­ment alone with­out bud­get-bust­ing con­struc­tion cam­paigns, par­tic­u­larly as the World Cup ex­pands from 32 to 48 teams.

Longer term, the Cup will be a show­case for the Amer­i­can way of do­ing sports. To this day, the 1994 World Cup held in the USA holds the record for ticket sales per game. The suc­cess of the 2026 bid was built partly on the un­der­stand­ing that it, too, would be a profit ma­chine.

Mostly, the suc­cess­ful bid un­der­scores the deep so­cial, po­lit­i­cal, cul­tural and eco­nomic ties that make the three na­tions bet­ter and more eco­nom­i­cally com­pet­i­tive. While much has been made of jobs mov­ing to Mex­ico, this is the down­side of a story that has had many up­sides for the USA.

It is im­pos­si­ble to iso­late the ef­fect of the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment from other fac­tors, such as the tech revo­lu­tion. But most econ­o­mists be­lieve that NAFTA’s over­all im­pact has been at least mod­estly pos­i­tive. The 1994 trade pact could use some up­dat­ing, but it should not be scrapped in fa­vor of sep­a­rate bi­lat­eral deals, as the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has been threat­en­ing to do.

The suc­cess­ful soc­cer bid also un­der­scores what might be called North Amer­i­can ex­cep­tion­al­ism. Nowhere on the planet do three large na­tions ex­ist side-by-side with so lit­tle fric­tion — at least un­til re­cently.

The United Bid was seen as ev­i­dence of how the United States, Canada and Mex­ico will re­main to­gether no mat­ter what comes out of Washington.

The world has taken note of this. And so should Pres­i­dent Trump.

KIR­ILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/GETTY IM­AGES

From left, Canada’s Steve Reed, Amer­ica’s Car­los Cordeiro and Mex­ico’s De­cio de Maria Ser­rano cel­e­brate in Moscow.

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