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World Cup host Putin gives Trump a ball

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HELSINKI (AP) Riding high after hosting a successful World Cup, Russian President Vladimir Putin brought a special gift to his summit with U.S. President Donald Trump: a soccer ball.

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After a journalist asked a question at their joint press conference Monday in Helsinki using soccer metaphors, Putin pulled out a red-and-white ball and tossed it at Trump, at the neighboring podium.

Trump said he’d give it to his 12-year-old son Barron, a soccer fan. Then the U.S. president tossed the ball to his wife Melania, sitting in the front row.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Putin critic, tweeted: “if it were me, I’d check the soccer ball for listening devices and never allow it in the White House.”

Russia’s organization of the monthlong World Cup, which ended Sunday, won wide praise.

Ranking potential host cities for 2026 World Cup

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With the excitement of the 2026 World Cup being awarded to the United States of America, Canada and Mexico, a lot of the focus has already switched to one thing: where will the games be played?

[ MORE: Full details on 2026 World Cup ]

Given the huge distances between potential host cities, the envy of certain stadiums being on the list of 23 potential venues is very real across some parts of the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

But with that initial list of 23 cities set to be whittled down to 16 in the coming years, and the likes of Vancouver and Chicago not even making that final list as both pulled out, it is a ridiculously tough decision to finalize where the World Cup games will be played.

Below is a ranking of the potential 23 host cities, with seven to miss out.

With the joint bid involving the USA, Mexico and Canada but 60 of the 80 games to be played in the U.S., you would think that a fair distribution of 10 U.S. cities and three each for Mexico and Canada is what the bid is looking at as their aim is to reach as many people as possible across all three countries.

But, when you think about it, maybe 12 U.S. cities and two each from Mexico and Canada would work a little better. With that in mind, we have two scenarios below as the geography of spreading the games out across North America is extremely tough. 

Here’s a look at where we think the games will be played during the 2026 World Cup but, of course, a lot can change in the next eight years…


Scenario 1 – (10 U.S. cities, 3 Mexican cities, 3 Canadian cities)

  1. New York/New Jersey – MetLife Stadium
  2. Mexico City – Azteca Stadium
  3. Toronto – BMO Field
  4. Los Angeles – Rose Bowl
  5. Boston – Gillete Stadium
  6. Miami – Hard Rock Stadium
  7. Dallas – AT&T Stadium
  8. Washington D.C. – FedEx Field
  9. Atlanta – Mercedes Benz Stadium
  10. Montreal – Olympic Stadium
  11. Monterrey – Estadio BBVA Bancomer
  12. San Francisco/San Jose – Levi’s Stadium
  13. Guadalajara – Estadio Akron
  14. Kansas City – Arrowhead Stadium
  15. Seattle – CenturyLink Field
  16. Edmonton – Commonwealth Stadium

Seven cities to miss out

  1. Philadelphia – Lincoln Financial Field
  2. Houston – NRG Stadium
  3. Baltimore – M&T Bank Stadium
  4. Cincinnati – Paul Brown Stadium
  5. Denver – Mile High Stadium
  6. Nashville – Nissan Stadium
  7. Orlando – Camping World Stadium

Scenario 2 – (12 U.S. cities, 2 Mexican cities, 2 Canadian cities)

  1. New York/New Jersey – MetLife Stadium
  2. Mexico City – Azteca Stadium
  3. Toronto – BMO Field
  4. Los Angeles – Rose Bowl
  5. Boston – Gillete Stadium
  6. Miami – Hard Rock Stadium
  7. Dallas – AT&T Stadium
  8. Washington D.C. – FedEx Field
  9. Atlanta – Mercedes Benz Stadium
  10. Houston – NRG Stadium
  11. San Francisco/San Jose – Levi’s Stadium
  12. Philadelphia – Lincoln Financial Field
  13. Montreal – Olympic Stadium
  14. Monterrey – Estadio BBVA Bancomer
  15. Kansas City – Arrowhead Stadium
  16. Seattle – CenturyLink Field

Seven cities to miss out

  1. Baltimore – M&T Bank Stadium
  2. Denver – Mile High Stadium
  3. Cincinnati – Paul Brown Stadium
  4. Nashville – Nissan Stadium
  5. Orlando – Camping World Stadium
  6. Edmonton – Commonwealth Stadium
  7. Guadalajara – Estadio Akron

U.S. gets Russia’s World Cup vote as logic trumps politics

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MOSCOW (AP) The United States was able to celebrate a World Cup victory in Russia after all. Thanks to assistance from the host nation at a FIFA Congress addressed by President Vladimir Putin.

For all the geopolitical tensions between the superpowers, Russia had no qualms about pressing the electronic keypads to select the joint bid from the United States, Canada and Mexico over Morocco in the 2026 World Cup hosting vote in Moscow on Wednesday.

“Football is separate from politics,” said Alexander Alayev, acting president of the Russian football federation. “Morocco prepared a very strong and interesting bid, but the unified bid was much stronger in all aspects.”

Maybe, finally, some sports officials made decisions based on existing merits and what is best for the game, rather than following political agendas.

“This should not be about geopolitics,” U.S. Soccer Federation President Carlos Cordeiro said. “This was not a vote in the United Nations.”

The U.S. may have hoped for a vote from North Korea after the rapprochement between the nations during an extraordinary summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un. North Korea instead opted for the Moroccan proposals that were dismissed by FIFA inspectors as high-risk in three areas and overwhelmingly rejected by the football world.

Morocco wasn’t even able to harness unanimous support from Africa, with 11 federations voting against their continental counterpart.

Despite his country voting for Morocco, Cameroon federation official Kevin Njomo accepted the World Cup would be “more profitable in America.”

Morocco also didn’t get full support from other Muslim-majority nations, with Afghanistan, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia among the 134 backers of the North American bid.

Has there really been an outbreak of common sense at a governing body where the specter of wrongdoing has hung over decisions in recent years? The 69 majority for North America meant FIFA avoids a fifth consecutive risky, tricky World Cup after South Africa, Brazil, Russia, which opens on Thursday without a U.S. team, and Qatar in 2022.

Where Morocco needed to spend billions of dollars building or renovating all 14 proposed stadiums, North America could host the World Cup almost immediately if needed.

Ultimately, Morocco’s record on human rights and lack of protections for the LGBT community, which were criticized by FIFA, might have helped to swing the decision.

Unlike the contentious dual votes in 2010 for Russia and Qatar, this time the inspection reports of each bid were a guide for voters from FIFA’s full membership.

In an unexpected late intervention after presentations on Wednesday, FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura gave the North American bid one final push before the ballot when she summarized the review task force’s verdict that saw Morocco fare so poorly.

Not only did she remind delegates about Morocco’s lack of infrastructure but highlighted the North American bid’s ability to deliver double the revenue at $14 billion.

Obviously, money talks.

“We tried to make the case of what’s best for FIFA,” Cordeiro said. That means swelling the coffers from FIFA’s signature tournament to allow President Gianni Infantino to distribute cash to the around the world to member federations.

The only real stumbling block on the campaign for the North Americans was concern about the impact of Trump’s push for immigration restrictions and a leaked White House outburst about African nations.

The bid team believed it wasn’t insurmountable.

“The politics of today may not be the politics of next year or five years or eight years down the road,” Canada’s federation president Steven Reed said.

Indeed, the U.S. passed this global test of popularity, aided by the inclusion of Canada and Mexico on the ticket.

“The unity of the three nations came together to offer what no one nation including my own can provide today,” Cordeiro said. “I think that was a powerful message. That is something we repeated and repeated over again. I think it made the difference at the end.”

No wonder Infantino described himself as a “happy man.” FIFA, it appears, got just what it wanted.

More AP World Cup coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/WorldCup

Rob Harris is at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

How will 2026 World Cup vote work?

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The vote for who will host the 2026 FIFA World Cup takes place in Moscow on Wednesday, June 13 during the 68th FIFA Congress as the North American bid and Morocco go head-to-head.

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Below is a breakdown on exactly how the voting system will work, as FIFA’s 206 member associations able to vote (Morocco, USA, Canada and Mexico are unable to vote as their bidding to be hosts) will decide which bid wins. 104 is the magic number.

There is also the small chance of both bids failing if enough votes are made for the third option on the ballot which is “None of the Bids – Reopen Bidding Process” as both the North American and Moroccan bid will lose and bids from other continents will be able to make a future bid to host the 2026 tournament.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Some projections have this being a close run thing with the joint U.S.-Canada-Mexico bid just ahead of Morocco but not having over 50 percent of the vote in the opening round, thus meaning a second round of bidding will take place. Whichever option has the most votes in a simple majority at the end of the second round will win the right to host the tournament.

Okay, with a little help from FIFA’s guidelines on the revamped bidding process, here we go…


How the voting process to select the 2026 FIFA World Cup hosts will work

  • The question to be put to the 68th FIFA Congress in connection with the vote shall be: “Do you want to award the right to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup
    final competition to the bid submitted by the Moroccan Football Association, to the joint bid submitted by the CSA, FEMEXFUT and the USSF (“United Bid”), or to none of them (thus reopening the bidding process, excluding the four member associations having already submitted a bid)?”
  • Voting may be conducted by electronic means. In this case, the possible votes are: “Moroccan Football Association Bid”; “United Bid”; or “None of the Bids – Reopen Bidding Process.”
  • If a FIFA Congress member does not vote for any of these options, this shall be counted as an abstention. The result of each ballot and the related votes by the members of the FIFA Congress shall be made public on immediately after the conclusion of the Congress.
  • The result will be announced immediately after the vote has been conducted by showing it on the screen at the FIFA congress.
  • In accordance with art. 69 par. 2 (d) of the FIFA Statutes, if fewer than three bids are presented to the Congress, a simple majority (more than 50%) of the valid votes cast is required for a decision on the host. In accordance with art. 11 par. 1 of the Standing Orders of the Congress, invalid votes or electronic votes manipulated in any other way as well as abstentions are to be disregarded when calculating the simple majority.
  • If one of the two bids obtains a simple majority in the first ballot, it shall be awarded the right to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup. The other bid shall be deemed to be rejected by FIFA. This decision is final.
  • If the third option (“None of the Bids – Reopen Bidding Process”) obtains a simple majority in the first ballot, both of the aforementioned bids are deemed to be rejected and the second phase of the Bidding Procedure shall be initiated (thus reopening the bidding process, excluding the four member associations that have already submitted a bid).
  • If none of the above three options obtains a simple majority, and the number of votes for the option “None of the Bids – Reopen Bidding Process” is equal to the number of votes for the aforementioned bids taken together, both of the bids shall be deemed to be rejected and the second phase of the Bidding Procedure shall be initiated. The proceedings relating to the agenda item of the 68th FIFA Congress on the designation of the host country of the 2026 FIFA World Cup shall be concluded.
  • If none of the options presented to the 68th FIFA Congress reaches a simple majority, and the number of votes for the aforementioned bids taken together is higher than the number of votes for the option “None of the Bids”, a second ballot shall be conducted. The question to be put to the 68th FIFA Congress in the context of the second ballot shall be: “Do you want to award the right to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup™ final competition to the bid submitted by the Moroccan Football Association or to the joint bid submitted by the CSA, FEMEXFUT and the USSF (“United Bid”)?”
  • A simple majority (more than 50%) of the valid votes cast is required for a decision to be taken in the second ballot.  If the second ballot should result in an equal number of votes for both bids, the bid that received the highest weighted average score in the technical evaluation report shall prevail.

Trump gets involved in 2026 World Cup bid

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The vote on who will host the 2026 World Cup will take place in Russia on Wednesday and the joint-bid from the USA, Mexico and Canada is expected to edge Morocco to victory.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

But could President Donald Trump have a big part to play in a victory for the North American bid?

A report from the New York Times suggests that Trump has been involved in allaying fears from countries across the world regarding his hard-line approach on immigration. This comes after he previously seemed to threaten countries around the world if they didn’t vote for the North American bid over Morocco.

Below is the crux of the news from the NYT, as Trump has been helping to smooth over fears regarding visas and travel bans.

Since March, Mr. Trump has provided United States soccer officials with three letters addressed to Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, soccer’s global governing body. Each letter, part of an extensive but largely unseen United States government effort to support the bid, contained increasingly specific guarantees that foreign teams, officials and even fans will face no restrictions on entering the U.S. for World Cup matches in 2026 if their countries qualify for the tournament. In effect, the letters assured officials voting on the event that Mr. Trump’s hard-line stance on visas would not apply to the World Cup.

The letters were reviewed by The New York Times; they have not previously been reported.

In the most recent letter, dated May 2, Mr. Trump cites the 1996 and 2002 Olympic Games and the 1994 World Cup as examples of major international events hosted by the United States, and he assures Mr. Infantino — and by extension FIFA voters — that “I am confident that the United States would host the 2026 FIFA World Cup in a similarly open and festive manner, and that all eligible athletes, officials and fans from all countries around the world would be able to enter the United States without discrimination.”

Of course, a second Trump term would end in 2025, more than a year before the event, a fact the United Bid officials also have pointed out to voters. That has not seemed to matter, soccer officials from the United States, Mexico and Canada said Monday. What has eased the minds of some voters, U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro said, is the mere existence of his letters — printed on crisp White House letterhead and marked with Mr. Trump’s distinctive, inch-high signature at the bottom in thick black pen strokes.

So, there you have it.

Even if Trump wins a second term as president, he will not be in office during the tournament in 2026, so how much this helps the North American bid remains to be seen.

The fact that the president of the USA is so involved in this bid suggests he realizes just how valuable this could be not only economically, but also in patching up relations between the U.S. and its neighbors to the north and south.