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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.

‘Turf’ in the Pacific Northwest: The spectrum of MLS’s three Cascadia venues

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Thierry Henry isn’t going to play this weekend against Seattle. Jamison Olave’s hamstrings are likely to take a pass, too, but that’s no big surprise. While it’s easy to say this weekend’s is a huge game and Henry should suck it up, he’s never played in Seattle. And ultimately, this is just a regular season game. You can’t both have a playoff system and claim the regular season matches are huge. If Henry and his doctors are concerned certain chronic issues are more likely to flare up at CenturyLink, then he shouldn’t risk his health for a regular season match. It’s just one of 34.

Where this issue becomes particularly interesting is when you compare Seattle’s FieldTurf surface to that of their rivals. Portland brags about their turf, perhaps rightly so, as there’s an obvious difference between it and CenturyLink’s. Timbers owner Merritt Paulson enjoys telling the anecdote about how notorious turf critic David Beckham eventually conceded JELD-WEN’s surface is not bad; both he and Henry choose (chose) to play in Portland.

[MORE: Thierry Henry likely to miss New York’s big clash at Seattle.]

Contrast that with Vancouver, which may compete with New England as the league’s worst. But whereas the Revolution’s is FieldTurf struggles with issues distinct from other FieldTurf instances, BC Place uses LigaTurf, a product of the German company PolyTan. In previous posts, I’ve equated it to felt on a pool table, a distortion intended to convey how slick the surface is (and how hard the slab is underneath). No field in Major League Soccer sees balls roll or bounce as much as Vancouver’s, a potentially huge advantage based on familiarity alone.

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The Portland Timbers announced in May that JELD-WEN Field’s surface has received FIFA recommended 2-Star status for the third straight year, one of two fields in the U.S. to earn that distinction.

If you were to put them on a spectrum of worst to best (or, to use the Arena range, “disasters” to ‘whatever, I guess’), Vancouver would lie at the far left. You don’t have to go very far to hear complaints. Seattle’s is less criticized but still draws Henry-esque caution, while Portland’s main criticism’s along the lines of “well, it’s still turf.”

[MORE: Bruce Arena calls artificial turf “disasters”]

Across all venues, recovery time’s going to be an issue, a reason why you’ll see any number of veterans skip Cascadia calls (even in Portland). Late in the season, when players are worn down, it’s not worth the risk.

And the games obviously play different, as Mikael Silvestre found out when a high bounce on JELD-WEN’s surface saw him caught out in his MLS debut. And as anybody who even rolls a ball at B.C. Place finds out, games are going play much faster in Vancouver.

But not all turf is the same. Across Cascadia even, there are drastic, important differences – distinctions so pronounced, the blanket term “turf” has almost no value.

MLS Preview: Vancouver Whitecaps vs. LA Galaxy

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  • Donovan, Keane with back-to-back hat tricks.
  • Vancouver 8-1-3 at home this season.
  • Whitecaps won last meeting at BC Place, 3-1.

Back-to-back weeks, Los Angeles has got a hat trick from a Designated Player. Landon Donovan’s three goals in Dallas helped the two-time defending champions take a point from Dallas two weeks ago, while Robbie Keane’s second half explosion against Real Salt Lake saw the Galaxy crush the Western Conference’s leaders. Given this trend, surely Omar Gonzalez, Los Angeles’s new Designated Player, is ready for an offensive explosion Saturday at BC Place?

Obviously, that’s unlikely, and not only because of Gonzalez’s position (central defender) or the sure improbability of having any player score a hat trick. The Vancouver Whitecaps, LA’s Saturday opponent, are 8-1-3 at home this season, their only loss coming in a game where Jun Marques Davidson was sent off in the eighth minute. The only other teams to take points out of BC Place have been Real Salt Lake, FC Dallas, and Portland, the last of those draws coming on May 18. Since then, the only blemish in the Whitecaps’ six home games has been Philadelphia’s 1-0, 11-on-10 win.

Given the nature of their home ground, it’s easy to see what the Whitecaps have such an advantage. It’s like playing on the surface of a pool table, the fast artificial field allowing balls to roll forever across the BC Place pitch. Though there are other artificial surfaces in the league, Vancouver’s may be the only one that makes no attempt to even emulate natural grass. It’s a rug, and although it’s not as bad as Astroturf, games at Vancouver often harken back to the early days of MLS, when it was far more common to see a touch pass from midfield roll out of bounds when a surprised fullback forgets the ball’s seeing no resistance.

If you play on that field 17-or-more times a year, you become used to it. You know how to weight your passes. You know the effort it will take to run down a ball. You know the speed at which the game’s going to be played.

If you’re not used to it, you have to adjust. You’re at a steeper disadvantage than you’d see face on any other road trip. And you’re facing a team with talents to take advantage of the pace.

Los Angeles certainly have the ability to adjust. Robbie Keane is old, but he’s not slow, and although Landon Donovan isn’t World Cup 2002-fast anymore, speed is still his ally. Marcelo Sarvas and Juninho are quick enough in the middle, while the thoroughbreds Bruce Arena can choose from on the outside are capable of keeping up with most.

But with Vancouver coming close the last time the two teams played (a 2-1 loss in Carson) and LA having won only three road games this season, Galaxy hat tricks are unlikely. On that slab at BC Place, LA biggest worry is keeping up.

The Galaxy will go into Saturday’s game in fourth place, holding 37 points after 24 games. The Whitecaps are in fifth with 36 points in 24 matches.

What they are saying

LA Galaxy forward Landon Donovan: “It’s pretty crazy, and, really, in the whole league. Because at the end of the day, teams that get to the final, if you want the game at home, there might be a point or two separating you from the other teams. Not only do you want to get in the playoffs and hopefully win the West, but you want to keep an eye on the East, too, and see if you can pass all those teams.” [source]

LA Galaxy left back Todd Dunivant: “When you factor in games in hand, it’s a virtual tie among a lot of teams. Fortunately, eight of our 10 games are against conference opponents. You can make up points. And then, obviously, other teams are playing a lot of conference teams.” [source]

Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie: “”We’re the home team, and we need to put the other team under pressure. We’ve been doing very well at home and scoring quite a lot of goals. We need to keep that going.” [source]

Prediction

LA’s last visit to Vancouver ended in a 3-1 loss, Russell Teibert scoring twice in the second half. This game could play out similarly. There’s no combination of LA defenders that look like a good matchup on BC Place’s field against Tiebert, Camilo, and Kenny Miller, and with Nigel Reo-Coker playing well, it may take an off day from the Whitecaps to keep them from climbing the West’s standings.

Highlights and context: Camilo stars again as Vancouver downs Chicago

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[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_wui8Fn8l4]

Fans in Vancouver, feel free to flood the comments with “it’s about time,” because I haven’t read too many people around North America writing something that should be obvious: Camilo needs to start getting some serious consideration for league MVP. Granted, it’s only July, and the only discussion about any awards centers on people’s midseasons picks — selections made with a half season’s levity — but when his two second half goals on Saturday vaulted his team to a 3-1 win over Chicago, the Vancouver Whitecaps attacker may have also vaulted himself toward the head of the MVP race.

Consider his Saturday contributions. After 66 minutes of relatively benign play from both sides, the 24-year-old Brazilian took matters into his own hands, going it alone after a long ball from Brad Knighton to open the scoring. Five minutes later, a perfect run along the back from Chicago’s defense strung him on another breakaway, and while Paolo Tornaghi initially thwarted his attempt to double Vancouver’s lead, Camilo eventually blasted a ball through the Fire defense for the winning goal.

With 12 goals, 10 in his last nine matches, Sanvezzo is now leads the league’s Golden Boot race, and while players like Kenny Miller and Nigel Reo Coker have had huge impacts on a consolidating Whitecaps squad, few players can have the effect Camilo had today. While you can’t launch a man’s MVP campaign based one streak, the potency of a Camilo-led attack compared to one without him (a look we saw too often from Vancouver last year) is obvious. Put him on that BC Place rug, let the Kekuta Manneh’s of the world roll that ball from 30 yards away (what happened on the second goal), and life becomes easy with a man like Camilo.

Robbie Keane was our pick for MVP, and it’s too soon to turn on the Galaxy focal point. But Camilo’s in this discussion. And if he doesn’t slow down, he’s going to end it.

ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings (in two parts)

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(Nos. 1-10 are on deck …so check back)

19. D.C. United – Seven. Game. Losing. Streak.  … What else needs to be said? (Well, this I suppose. Or maybe even this.)

18. Toronto FC – Team president Kevin Payne says DP reinforcements are on the way, set for this summer. It can’t be soon enough.

17. Chicago Fire – What’s worse, just 1 of a possible 12 points so far on the road? Or just 6 of a possible 15 points at home? Hmmm.

16. Chivas USA – Goals just before halftime are killing the Goats; another one dented the visitors’ chances in Portland last week, one that eventually got away from Chivas and finished 3-0. The Chivas attack right now looks completely lost, devoid of any direction.

15. New England Revolution – New England’s pair of home games last week were both against quality opposition (New York and Real Salt Lake). Still, emerging with just one points from a possible six at Gillette Stadium represents shallow return. Oh, speaking of Gillette, the club’s untenable stadium situation remains a case of “same mess, different day.”

14. Columbus – Eddie Gaven (pictued above) said it best: “The mood here is not very high right now, getting shutout our last two home games. It’s not what we wanted. It’s that last pass and last shot that just wasn’t there. It wasn’t clean when we got to the last third of the field.”

13. Vancouver Whitecaps – The Whitecaps’ 3-1 win over the LA Galaxy was the first victory for Martin Rennie’s team since March 9. Next up is a Cascadia Cup biggie; Portland comes into BC Place Saturday.

12. San Jose Earthquakes – Let’s look at the schedule and see which unlucky team comes into Northern California after Frank Yallop’s proud bunch – who can also be a very, very physical bunch – got on the business end of a 4-0 throttling … Oh! Congratulations, Colorado. The teams meet Saturday at Buck Shaw.

11. Philadelphia Union – Young striker Jack McInerney remains ahead of the field in the Golden Boot chase, now with seven goals after managing yet another game-winner in the Union’s big 1-0 win at Chicago. By the way, John Hackworth’s team is a dandy 3-2-1 on the road. Every team will take that.