North Amer­i­can trio to host 2026 World Cup

The Oklahoman - - SPORTS -

The United States, Mex­ico and Canada will host the 2026 World Cup af­ter FIFA vot­ers chose the North Amer­i­can trio over Morocco on Wed­nes­day.

North Amer­ica will host the 2026 World Cup af­ter FIFA vot­ers over­whelm­ingly opted for the fi­nan­cial and lo­gis­ti­cal cer­tainty of a United Statesled 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 on Wed­nes­day.

The vote by foot­ball fed­er­a­tions was pub­lic, in con­trast to se­crecy sur­round­ing the bal­lot by FIFA's elected board mem­bers for the 2018 and 2022 hosts, Rus­sia and Qatar, in 2010.

The U.S. pro­posed stag­ing 60 out of the 80 games in 2026, when 16 teams will be added to the fi­nals, leav­ing Canada and Mex­ico with ten fix­tures each.

An op­ti­mistic prom­ise of de­liv­er­ing $14 bil­lion in rev­enue helped sway vot­ers, along with the lack of ma­jor con­struc­tion work re­quired on the 16 planned sta­di­ums, all of which al­ready ex­ist.

By con­trast, 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.

While Morocco's com­bined tick­ets and hos­pi­tal­ity rev­enue would be $1.07 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to FIFA anal­y­sis, North Amer­ica would gen­er­ate $2 bil­lion ad­di­tional in­come.

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

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump tweeted his ap­proval : "The U.S., to­gether with Mex­ico and Canada, just got the World Cup. Con­grat­u­la­tions - a great deal of hard work!"

While Trump has been feud­ing with Cana­dian lead­ers over tar­iffs and Mex­ico about his pro­posed border wall, the po­lit­i­cal lead­ers are not heav­ily in­volved in the World Cup bid. Even if Trump wins re-elec­tion, his pres­i­dency will end be­fore the 2026 World Cup.

The 87,000-ca­pac­ity MetLife Sta­dium out­side New York is pro­posed for the fi­nal. It's just miles from where fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors spear­headed an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion into FIFA cor­rup­tion. More than 40 soc­cer of­fi­cials and busi­nesses in­dicted, con­victed or pleaded guilty.

Spain fires coach 2 days be­fore open­ing match

With only two days to go be­fore Spain's open­ing match at the World Cup, Julen Lopetegui was fired as na­tional team coach af­ter ac­cept­ing a job to lead Real Madrid next sea­son.

Span­ish soc­cer fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dent Luis Ru­biales, who made the an­nounce­ment on Wed­nes­day in Krasnodar, later said Fer­nando Hierro would re­place Lopetegui as coach for Spain's match against Por­tu­gal in Sochi on Fri­day.

The 50-year-old Hierro, a for­mer na­tional team player and Real Madrid cap­tain, will be tak­ing on his first ma­jor coach­ing job. He had been act­ing as the fed­er­a­tion's sports direc­tor and was al­ready in Rus­sia with the na­tional team.

Ru­biales said fir­ing Lopetegui wasn't the best so­lu­tion but it was needed af­ter the fed­er­a­tion was caught by sur­prise by Madrid's an­nounce­ment.

"The fed­er­a­tion can­not be left out of a ne­go­ti­a­tion by one of its work­ers and be in­formed five min­utes be­fore the press re­lease," Ru­biales said. "We have been com­pelled to act."

[AP PHOTO]

Del­e­gates of Canada, Mex­ico and the United States cel­e­brate af­ter win­ning a joint bid to host the 2026 World Cup at the FIFA congress in Moscow on Wed­nes­day. Stand­ing on front row from left: Steve Reed, pres­i­dent of the Cana­dian Soc­cer As­so­ci­a­tion, Car­los Cordeiro, U.S. soc­cer pres­i­dent and De­cio de Maria, Pres­i­dent of the Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion of Mex­ico.

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