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Morocco gets two CONCACAF endorsements in 2026 World Cup hosting race

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Everything is going to be fine, even if the 2026 World Cup does not arrive on the shores of the United States. Just remind yourself that.

Morocco will feel it has landed some shots — pun very much intended — against the tri-bid of Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. with the endorsement of CONCACAF nations Dominica and Saint Lucia.

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“Dominica, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria, has a lot to learn from Morocco, which could help us become the first climate resilient country in the world,” said Dominica foreign minister Francine Baron in a release.

“Morocco has never ceased to provide assistance and expertise to farmers in my country,” said Saint Lucien minister of development and sports Edmund Estephane.

A failure to land the 2026 World Cup would be another shot at the legacy of former U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, who has overseen much growth in the country but did not seek reelection following Bruce Arena’s failure to lead the USMNT into the 2018 World Cup.

Morocco touts gun safety in 2026 World Cup bid against U.S.

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Morocco has touted its limited threat from gun crime in a 2026 World Cup bidding proposal to take on the United States-led rival for the soccer showpiece.

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The north African nation highlights safety for visiting fans in bidding documents published by FIFA on Monday that do however show every stadium and training ground requires building work.

By contrast, the North American bid book says it is the low-risk proposition for FIFA since no infrastructure will be built for the first World Cup after the jump from 32 to 48 finalists.

Morocco’s decision to point to “very low gun circulation” comes amidst the growing call for stricter laws regarding firearms in the U.S. following a school shooting in Florida that left 17 dead.

The U.S. is the dominant partner in a North American bid that includes Canada and Mexico.

Int’l friendlies: Sweden fall to Chile; Canada win Herdman’s debut

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A roundup of Saturday’s (less-than-stellar) slate of international friendlies…

[ MORE: France blow a lead, lose to Colombia; England top Holland ]

Sweden 1-2 Chile

Sweden, who’ll be at the 2018 World Cup, fell 1-0 behind Chile, who won’t be joining them in Russia, when Arturo Vidal hit a simply stunning, off-balance volley into the upper-90 from the edge of the box in the 22nd minute. Ola Toivonen brought Sweden back to 1-1 just a minute later, but Marcos Bolados broke Blagult hearts in the 90th minute, when he pounced on a bouncing rebound and hammered the ball into an open net.

[ MORE: New USMNT kits for 2018 World Cup ]

Northern Ireland 2-1 South Korea

Speaking of World Cup-bound sides falling to those who failed to qualify themselves, South Korea went ahead away to Northern Ireland after just seven minutes, but watched helplessly as Kwon Chang-Hoon’s opening goal slipped away from the Taeguk Warriors.

Min-Jae Kim scored a mostly unavoidable own goal in the 20th minute, and Paul Smyth slipped through a sea of South Korean defenders to fire home a wonderful winner in the 86th minute.

Canada 1-0 New Zealand

Among the national teams not currently preparing for this summer’s tournament, but instead building toward qualification in 2022, there’s Canada, who knocked off New Zealand in Murcia, Spain, to begin the John Herdman era with a victory on Saturday.

Tosaint Ricketts scored the game’s only goal, a 54th-minute volley from the Toronto FC forward, courtesy of a long, searching ball out of the back from defender Dejan Jakovic.

Herdman took over the Canadian men’s post in January, when he stepped down as head coach of the women’s team, which he led to two straight appearances in each the World Cup and Olympics during eight years on the job.

Come September, the Canucks will be competing in the CONCACAF Nations League, a 34-team tournament featuring all but the six nations to have competed in the Hexagonal of World Cup qualifying. The top 10 finishing sides will qualify for the 2019 Gold Cup, alongside the Hex combatants. Canada will face the U.S. Virgin Islands in September, followed by Dominica in October, Saint Kitts and Nevis in November, and finally French Guiana in March 2019.

Elsewhere in int’l friendlies

Israel 1-2 Romania
Togo 2-2 Ivory Coast
Georgia 4-0 Lithuania
Zambia 0-2 South Africa
Kenya 2-2 Comoros
Kosovo 1-0 Madagascar
Armenia 0-0 Estonia

2026 World Cup bid reveals 23-city list across Canada, Mexico, U.S.

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The United Bid group announced 23 cities as finalists to host matches should the United States, Canada, and Mexico defeat Morocco and win the right to host the 2026 World Cup.

Chicago and Vancouver were reported as departing the bid earlier Thursday.

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Seventeen of the 23 cities are in the United States: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Nasvhille, New York/New Jersey, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, Washington, D.C.

Mexico has put up three sites: Guadalajara, Mexico City, and Monterrey, while Canada still has a trio after Vancouver’s exit: Toronto, Montreal, and Edmonton in the running.

Here’s the sales pitch (which is pretty appealing):

“Canada, Mexico, and the United States have joined together to deliver a United Bid that offers FIFA and its member associations the power of unity, the promise of certainty, and the potential of extraordinary opportunity,” said John Kristick, Executive Director of the United Bid. “We are confident that the combination of our 23 existing world-class stadiums, 150 existing elite training facilities, and our modern and interconnected transportation network can help FIFA to achieve new records for attendance and revenue, which will allow the entire global football community to improve and grow.”

Reports: Chicago, Vancouver pull out of World Cup 2026 bid

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Two major North American cities with World Cup-ready stadiums have pulled out of being host cities in the 2026 World Cup bid.

According to two separate reports, both Chicago and Vancouver will not be hosting any World Cup matches should the joint-bid between the U.S., Canada and Mexico win the right to hold the 2026 World Cup in North America.

In both cases, city and state leaders argued that FIFA asked for major financial guarantees without promising a huge return on investment, making the elected officials nervous about moving forward with a bid.

[READ: Chivas too much for Seattle]

“FIFA could not provide a basic level of certainty on some major unknowns that put our city and taxpayers at risk,” Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s office said in a statement Wednesday. “The uncertainty for taxpayers, coupled with FIFA’s inflexibility and unwillingness to negotiate, were clear indications that further pursuit of the bid wasn’t in Chicago’s best interests.”

It’s a big loss for the bid to lose these cities, though. Vancouver, who’s BC Place seats 54,000, hosted group stage and knockout round games before hosting the final of the 2015 Women’s World Cup, which the U.S. won in thrilling fashion over Japan. And Chicago, which had previously pulled itself out for the U.S. World Cup bids in 2010 and 2018-2022, hosted the opening match of the 1994 World Cup at Soldier Field and was assumed from the start that the third-largest city in the U.S. by population would be a host city.

As of now, Montreal, Toronto and Edmonton have agreed to move forward with the United 2026 bid, which should be more than enough for the current 10 games Canada will host. Mexico has proposed games played at Estadio Azteca, as well as in Nuevo Leon and Guadalajara.

Meanwhile, the U.S. still has 21 other venues to pick from, including major NFL stadiums such as MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas and the under-construction Los Angeles Stadium in Hollywood Park. FIFA has required the opening-match stadium and final stadium to seat 80,000+, while venues must seat a minimum of 40,000, which would force stadium’s like Toronto’s BMO Field to expand further.