FIFA

Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images

Former FIFA head Blatter quizzed by US, Swiss investigators

2 Comments

ZURICH (AP) Sepp Blatter says he met with U.S. Department of Justice officials and is not a suspect in their investigation of corruption linked to FIFA.

[ MORE: Mexico’s Blanco fears for life following hitman’s accusations ]

The former FIFA president tells reporters: “I was never a person of interest or under scrutiny by the American justice. Never.”

Blatter’s most recent contact “with lawyers from the United States Justice Department” was several months ago in Switzerland and was also attended by FIFA legal representatives, he says.

Blatter says: “I have been investigated in two or three matters but it’s no wrongdoing. So the only case which is pending for me is the Swiss case.”

Swiss federal prosecutors have also questioned Blatter, though he says “clarification” in their broader FIFA investigation and not related to a criminal proceedings opened against him in September 2015.

North American bid for 2026 World Cup backed by Oceania

Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Leave a comment

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) The United States, Canada and Mexico bid to co-host the 2026 World Cup is supported by the 11-nation Oceania soccer confederation.

[ MORE: Virus to blame for Chelsea’s loss at Man United? ]

Oceania says it also agrees the bid should have “an exclusive period of negotiation” with FIFA for the next year.

The 211 FIFA member federations can decide on May 11 to give the North American neighbors a March 2018 deadline without rivals to show their bid is technically sound.

The bid launched this month is currently FIFA’s only realistic option for the expanded 48-team World Cup in 2026. FIFA rules bar European and Asian members from bidding.

Oceania’s FIFA vice president, David Chung, says “it makes sense on a rotational basis” for the 2026 edition to return to North America for the first time since the U.S.-hosted 1994 tournament.

USA the big winners in 2026 World Cup bid

Getty Images
4 Comments

Yes, it was a historic moment when the U.S., Mexico and Canada came together to announce for the first-time in history they wanted a FIFA World Cup to be hosted by three nations, but perhaps the biggest takeaway from the announcement in New York City on Monday was that the U.S. would host 60 of the 80 games at a potential 2026 World Cup hosted in North America.

60 of the 80.

[ MORE: US, Mexico, Canada launch bid

That’s 75 percent of the entire tournament in the U.S. plus the entire tournament from the quarterfinal stage onwards (so, the World Cup final would also be played in the USA) would be hosted Stateside.

Unsurprisingly the reaction to these details has seen mixed responses in Canada and Mexico, two nations which, like the U.S., is capable of hosting a World Cup on its own.

[ MORE: Host cities for World Cup?

With Mexico and Canada each getting just 10 games, and many of those likely to be group games, would a fairer split have been 40 games in the USA and 20 each in Mexico and Canada? The president of Mexico’s soccer federation, Decio de Maria, says those numbers aren’t set in stone but if Mexico and Canada only get 10 games each in the 2026 World Cup, is there much point of them being part of this joint bid?

There has been talk that due to concerns from FIFA over travel bans in the U.S. and recent policies brought in by President Trump, the U.S. bidding alone would’ve been met with concern. Sunil Gulati, the president of U.S. Soccer, mentioned Trump in his announcement and the fact that he encouraged the bid with Mexico. There is plenty of politics to all of this too.

Of course, the CONCACAF region as a whole would benefit from this tournament and with U.S, Mexico and Canada all seeking automatic qualification as hosts, the potential for more CONCACAF teams to qualify for the tournament is positive. The plan is for six CONCACAF teams to gain automatic qualification to a 48-team World Cup in 2026, and how the expanded World Cup will work will be ratified at the next FIFA congress in Bahrain on May 11. Does that mean six CONCACAF teams, plus the three hosts, would all qualify?

[ MORE: North American nations want fast decision ]  

Those are the kind of kinks which will be worked out in the coming months and only when this joint bid is successful will we get a better idea of how it will be structured for qualifying purposes.

What are the chances of the three nations winning this bid? Gulati, who is leading the bid, fancies his chances of the winning. Given the fact that new FIFA president Gianni Infantino owes Gulati a great debt for helping him be appointed the new president of FIFA, that confidence is well placed.

And with no other candidates put forward so far to host the monster tournament — there’s talk of a potential bid from South America with Colombia, Peru and Ecuador interested, plus the CAF federation (Africa) is able to bid for the tournament — it is being reported that the North American bid is putting pressure on FIFA to bring the bidding process forward two years early and wants a decision to be made as early as 2018 at the FIFA congress in Moscow.

Whatever happens in that process, let’s analyze how we have come to see three nations standing together as hosts.

The U.S. knew it would’ve been the clear favorite to host the tournament among Canada and Mexico if all three nations had made separate bids. Yes, Mexico (who’ve already hosted the 1970 and 1986 World Cup) could’ve easily bid for the tournament and has many stadiums which could host games and the infrastructure, while Canada would need a few more stadiums built to get up to FIFA standards but not much else would be needed.

With all of that in mind, the U.S. had the chips staked in its favor and left Gulati and U.S. Soccer’s directors in a very powerful bargaining position. Yes, the U.S. could’ve gone alone to host this but with a token gesture of allowing Canada and Mexico to host 10 games each they’re looking like good neighbors and also spreading the wealth which comes with hosting a World Cup.

Yet it still feels like the U.S. could’ve done more to make this a truly continental World Cup. Perhaps a semifinal played in each of Canada and Mexico, then the final played in the U.S. or maybe even the final played at the Azteca which is a true soccer cathedral. It seems a little insulting that a huge soccer nation like Mexico, one that has already hosted its own World Cup twice, gets a few group games and then a handful of knockout games out of the deal.

Read the newspapers in Mexico today. Reaction to this announcement has not been kind but of course there is still room for some bargaining and with this World Cup over nine years away things could change and Mexico may be handed some more games.

Here’s the key though.

During the announcement Gulati spoke many times about this being the best economical tournament in history. That’s probably true as a few stadium upgrades would be needed but you could host a World Cup in the USA next week if you needed to. The sponsorship, income from fans and other spin-offs would all be straight cash for FIFA.

There lies the reason why the U.S. is the main host for this tournament. Commercially it has the biggest stadiums in the biggest cities and it is able to generate huge incomes. Just look at the crowds at any of the International Champions Cup games or the Copa Americe Centenario in the U.S. last summer. The vast majority for the big games were sold out with crowds of over 45,000 for most matches and some high profile affairs saw over 100,000 fans turn up.

Also, don’t forget that the 1994 World Cup in the USA still holds the record for the best attended World Cup in history.

That is the real reason why the U.S. has taken the largest slice of the pie pretty much the whole pie and FIFA will gladly gobble it up with a dollop of ice cream from both Mexico and Canada to wash it down.

With only here is no way that this bid will lose.

US, Canada, Mexico ask FIFA for faster World Cup bid process

Getty Images
1 Comment

ZURICH (AP) The North American bid to host the 2026 World Cup has asked FIFA for a quicker decision in June 2018, two years ahead of schedule.

In a letter seen by The Associated Press, the United States, Canada and Mexico soccer federations ask FIFA to consider their request next month at its congress in Bahrain.

The bid was launched on Monday, and is likely the only realistic option for FIFA’s 211 member federations who are scheduled to decide in May 2020.

The extra agenda item in Bahrain asks FIFA members to make a “principle decision” for the 2026 tournament to be “jointly and cooperatively organized” in North America.

FIFA could then ask the bid to meet all technical demands by March, and confirm the hosts at the 2018 congress in Moscow.

USA, Mexico, Canada announce joint bid for 2026 World Cup

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Three nations coming together sharing one dream: to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

[ LIVE: Stream every PL game live

On Tuesday the heads of the national soccer federations of the U.S., Mexico and Canada came together to announce they’ve launched a joint bid to host the 2026 tournament across all three nations.

U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati, Canadian Soccer Association President Victor Montagliani and Mexican Football Federation President Decio de Maria gathered on the 102nd floor of One World Trade Center to make the announcement which hopes to see the tournament return to the CONCACAF region for the first time since the U.S. hosted its first-ever World Cup in 1994.

The U.S. previously bid to host the 2018 World Cup, but failed, and Mexico has hosted the World Cup in 1970 and 1986. Canada has never hosted the men’s edition but successfully hosted the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Gulati announced that the three federations have signed a “memorandum of understanding” and they planned to unveil more details to FIFA as the bidding process becomes clearer.

FIFA will host an expanded 48-team tournament, up from 32 teams, from 2026 onwards but how that all works will be discussed further in Bahrain in the next FIFA congress on May 11.

The U.S. will take the bulk of the tournament, with 60 of the 80 games in the United States of America, and discussions have taken place to schedule group games in similar time zones which run through all three countries to minimize travel.

“There will be 80 games, three quarters of which would be played in the United States and 10 games in each of Canada and Mexico,” Gulati confirmed.

It was also confirmed by Gulati that any potential tournament would be hosted in the U.S. from the quarterfinal stage onwards, thus meaning the World Cup final would take place in the United States of America. It is still unclear as to whether all three nations would qualify automatically for the tournament as the FIFA council would have to discuss that factor and so to would CONCACAF as qualifying would be heavily impacted in the region.

In terms of economics the bid makes a lot of sense as between the three nations there are dozens of stadiums ready to use for the tournament, plus the infrastructure is mostly in place to host an event the size of the World Cup. This continental style hosting approach is on the rise. For example, EURO 2020 will be hosted in cities across Europe instead of in one host country to stop a single nation from having to handle the economic burden alone.

Gulati also allayed fears about potential immigration problems between the U.S. government and teams traveling to the USA for the tournament.

“We have the full support of this project from the U.S. government,” Gulati said. “The president of the United States encouraged us to make this bid and is especially pleased that Mexico is involved in this bid. We have a strong encouragement from President Trump.”

More details will be released by the three governing bodies in due course as they will discuss their bid at the FIFA congress in May in Bahrain.

The overriding emotion from this announcement was one of togetherness as Gulati acknowledged the U.S. could have easily bid to host this tournament on its own but cited the desire to grow the game across the CONCACAF region as well as bringing the three nations together.