With questions about the status of a combined 2026 FIFA World Cup bid from the United States, Canada and Mexico bouncing around the soccer world, the recently formed United Bid Committee named none other than Robert Kraft as honorary chairman in mid-July.
“Robert Kraft has been one of the most influential figures in modern professional sports in the United States,” U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said in a statement regarding the owner of the reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriots and Major League Soccer’s New England Revolution. “He is a leader who saw the potential of soccer in America early on and has been heavily invested in the success and growth of the game over the last three decades. Robert will be a great asset to our effort to bring the 2026 FIFA World Cup to North America.”
Other significant recent appointments to the UBC include John Kristick (who worked on the United States’ unsuccessful bid for the 2022 World Cup) as UBC’s executive director and Jim Brown (formerly FIFA’s director of competitions and managing director of the 2016 Copa Centenario) as managing director of technical operations.
According to SoccerAmerica.com, the UBC is comprised of five U.S. members — all of whom were members of the 2022 bid committee — as well as three officials from Canada and two from Mexico.
SoccerAmerica.com’s Paul Kennedy provides a concise summary of the forthcoming bid process:
The U.S. presence equal to the combined Canadian and Mexican presence on the board reflects how U.S. Soccer is driving the process. The agreement reached on the combined bid calls for the USA to host 60 of the 80 games and Canada and Mexico to host 10 games each. The tournament schedule will be expanded from 64 to 80 games in 2026 to accommodate an expansion in the field from 32 to 48 teams.
The USA, Canada and Mexico will need to prepare the bid to meet FIFA’s yet to be published technical requirements and submit them by March 2018. The North American nations pushed to expedite the bid process scheduled to be completed in 2020.
The FIFA requirements will include stadium agreements and government guarantees. In 2010, the U.S. World Cup 2022 bid included agreements with 20 stadiums in 18 markets.
Since then, a new line of large stadiums has opened (Levi’s Stadium, host of the 2017 Gold Cup final, and Minneapolis’ U.S. Bank Stadium) or will open soon (Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of the Falcons and MLS’s Atlanta United). Stadiums for relocated NFL teams are slated to open in Los Angeles and Las Vegas in 2020.
The 2026 World Cup will be awarded on June 13, 2018.
In April, Gulati told reporters that the Trump administration “is fully supportive of the joint bid, encouraged the joint bid and especially pleased with the fact that Mexico is participating in this joint bid with us.” Trump himself has not made any public statement regarding the issue.