U.S.-led World Cup bid getting 'no backlash' over Trump policies - Cordeiro
United Bid Committee co-chair Carlos Cordeiro said that the joint bid from Canada, Mexico and the U.S. to win the hosting rights for the 2026 World Cup has received "no backlash" from prospective voters about policies and statements from the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.
Cordeiro joined fellow co-chairs Steven Reed of Canada and Decio de Maria from Mexico on a conference call from Kuala Lumpur, where they were meeting with members of the Asian Football Confederation.
The three co-chairs stressed the "unity, certainty and opportunity" that the bid represents to FIFA. The certainty aspect, one that highlights the infrastructure advantages the United Bid has over rival Morocco, was a particular point of emphasis, given that the tournament will be the first to have an expanded field of 48 teams. Morocco has stated that it will invest $16 billion, including $3bn needed to build or renovate nine stadiums and 130 training grounds. That infrastructure is already in place for the United Bid.
"[The 2026 World Cup] will be an unprecedented endeavor, it will need to be executed flawlessly," said De Maria. "It will not be a time to take risk, to worry whether stadiums, training facilities and hotels will be ready. Our bid offers proven experience."
Cordeiro added that the joint bid would result in record revenues. He predicted that every match would be sold out, and estimated 5.8 million tickets sold, resulting in $2.1bn in ticket revenue. Such a windfall would deliver "unprecedented benefits to our member associations both large and small."
But Morocco, the only rival to the joint bid, has put up an unexpectedly tough fight for the hosting rights. Its effort has been helped in part by lingering resentment towards the U.S. stemming from the Department of Justice's investigation into FIFA corruption. Additionally, multiple sources confirmed to ESPN FC that Trump administration policies like a travel ban affecting mostly Arab countries, as well as a reported use of profanity by President Trump to describe poorer countries has further hindered the bid.
When asked how concerned he was about how anti-U.S. sentiment might impact the bid, Cordeiro stayed on message.
He said: "We're focused on our bid and what we have to offer and we believe that the FIFA community, the member associations around the world will make their decisions based on the merits of our bid."
But when asked specifically if geopolitical concerns and policies by the Trump administration had resulted in a backlash from voters, Cordeiro said they hadn't.
"This is not geopolitics," said Cordeiro. "We're talking about football and what is fundamentally, at the end of the day, what is in the best interests of football and our footballing community. We've had no backlash. We focused on the merits of our bid.
"Every conversation we've had here in Asia and elsewhere before that has focused on the unity and certainty of what we have on the table and the opportunity for the footballing community. That's where we remain focused."
In light of the controversy surrounding the voting for the 2022 World Cup, in which Qatar beat out the U.S. amid charges of corruption, the three co-chairs were asked how confident they were that the FIFA voters would make a merit-based decision, or if some voters were still corrupt and looking for a deal.
"The reforms that FIFA undertook some years ago I think were spot on and we feel very confident that ultimately the right decision will be made and we feel confident that that decision will be to award this tri-nation bid," said Cordeiro. "We're not concerned about the issues [related to possible corruption]."
Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter has come out in favor of Morocco's bid, but the United Bid co-chairs indicated that his support hasn't been a factor.
"It's not come up in a single conversation," said Reed about Blatter's support for Morocco.
For now, the focus will be on securing the required 104 votes in the days that remain.
"We're not taking any vote for granted," said Cordeiro. "We're going to keep working very hard for every vote, right up to the election on June 13, in Moscow."
The North American bid proposed venues be selected from among 23 stadiums that exist or already are under construction, including three each in Mexico and Canada. Sixteen of the U.S. stadiums are sites of NFL teams.
Sixty games would be played in the U.S. under the bid plan, including all from the quarterfinals on. Three cities were included from Mexico and Canada, and both of those nations would host 10 games.
"The split of matches that we have proposed to FIFA frankly reflects the resources of the three countries," Cordeiro said. "We in the United States are blessed with some very substantial resources in terms of stadium infrastructure, of cities and so on, and that reflects the 60 matches that we have on the table. But at the end of the day there is a reason why FIFA have asked for or have encouraged joint bids and we do think that our joint bids taken together provide for a vastly superior bid than our competition."
Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.