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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.

Report: U.S. 2026 World Cup bid no longer overwhelming favorite

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The United States, Mexico and Canada may very well host the 2026 World Cup. But it’s not as much of a lock as it was when the bid was first officially announced.

According to reporting by ESPN’s Sam Borden, a number of factors on and off the field has led to Morocco’s bid catching up to the U.S.-led bid for the 2026 World Cup, just a few months ahead of the vote on who will host the World Cup. The reporting states that some believe Morocco’s World Cup bid has the backing of all of Africa, South America and much of Asia, which would put it over the 104-vote threshold needed for a simple majority win.

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Other sources in the reporting state that the U.S.-led bid with Canada and Mexico is still the favorite, but the margin of victory will be much lower come the World Cup vote in June. FIFA’s entire member body of 211 nations – not including the four bidding nations and suspended Guatemala – are expected to vote at the FIFA Congress from June 12-13 in Moscow, Russia.

The U.S. missing out on the 2018 World Cup may not have helped its case, but it’s really the work of the U.S. Justice Department as well as comments by U.S. President Donald Trump that have reportedly changed the perception of a shoe-in World Cup in the USA.

Many in South America’s CONMEBOL are reportedly upset about the FBI investigation and Justice Department court cases against the former corrupt bosses of South American soccer, turning the organization upside down, while others have reportedly not taken too kindly to Trump’s travel ban of mostly Arab nations as well as some of his comments about other countries in the Caribbean and Africa.

The report states the USA-Mexico-Canada World Cup bid is going out of its way to stress the unity between the three nations when politicking with FIFA member nation executives to try and earn their votes.

It would be shocking for the U.S. to lose the bid for the 2026 World Cup, especially as the World Cup is being expanded to 48 teams and the U.S. is one of the few nations that can easily support that, but per the latest geo-political events, the vote could be closer than we had ever imagined it. Hopefully, it doesn’t come down to the last vote to know who will host the 2026 World Cup.

Veteran Dutch defender Braafheid cancels contract to come to U.S.

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Plenty of soccer players around the Europe are linked with vague moves to leagues in the United States and Canada, but it’s rare to see what happened on Wednesday.

FC Utrecht in the Netherlands announced that it had mutually terminated the contract of defender Edson Braafheid after Braafheid decided to “permanently move” to the U.S. with his American wife and kids.

“My family is very important to me, that has now been shown again during the holidays,” Braafheid said in a statement. “Together with my American wife and children, I permanently move to America and I want to take the time to come to a definitive decision about my football career. The feeling has been playing through my head for a long time. This, combined with the small number of minutes of play, made me decide to cancel my contract.”

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Braafheid came up as a professional with Utrecht and after a strong run at FC Twente, he earned a place in the Netherlands National Team as well as a move to Bayern Munich. But the German adventure didn’t pan out and Braafheid has bounced between clubs, struggling to find regular playing time for the past seven years.

It’s unclear which club he could go to, although one logical landing spot, at least on a trial basis, would be the Philadelphia Union, considering their technical director is Dutch-American Ernie Stewart.

But aside from the LA Galaxy, which are reported to be re-signing Ashley Cole, there probably aren’t many clubs looking at signing an aging left back to their roster for the upcoming season.

For Braafheid at least, he can consider himself one of the few to cancel his contract and journey to the unknown in the U.S.

3 keys for USMNT vs. Nicaragua

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The U.S. Men’s National Team survived disaster Wednesday night with their 3-2 win over Martinique.

But the performance left much to be desired, and Bruce Arena will again need to tinker with his lineup and tactics to find a more consistent winning formula from this squad of 23 players ahead of Saturday’s match in Cleveland against Nicaragua.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Gold Cup coverage ]

With a number of the starters resting, the U.S. starting eleven against Martinique looked and played like a team that didn’t have a lot of chemistry together, and it really took until the second half to start finding their flow in the attacking third of the field.

On the other end, centerbacks Omar Gonzalez and Matt Hedges and goalkeeper Brad Guzan each had forgettable moments against a team without a heralded set of players, other than Kevin Parsemain.

Here’s a look at three keys to victory for the USMNT when they face Nicaragua:

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WATCH: Jordan Morris bags brace in U.S. Olympic qualifying win

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Four years ago, the Caleb Porter’s United States crashed out of Olympic qualifying, a spectacular failure that included an embarrassing 2-0 loss to Canada in Nashville, one that had American fans shaking their fists in frustration.

This time around, Jordan Morris and the Yanks wasted little time in making a statement of difference, putting their Northern neighbors on the losing end of a 3-1 decision with a first minute goal.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Olympic coverage | USMNT ]

Morris finished the day with a pair of goals, the first coming when he leapt onto a Jerome Kiesewetter (Stuttgart) cross, heading it home.

Then, the Stanford junior got on the end of a picture-perfect looping ball from Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew), who shrugged off the charge of Luca Gasparotto before nutmegging Montreal Impact goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau.