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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

North America's 2026 Fifa World Cup bid see no anti-US backlash

Morocco only other country in running to stage tournament as it rivals joint US-Canada-Mexico bid

A Fifa ruling council on January 10,  2017 voted unanimously to expand the World Cup 2026 to 48 teams. Bernd Weissbrod / EPA
A Fifa ruling council on January 10, 2017 voted unanimously to expand the World Cup 2026 to 48 teams. Bernd Weissbrod / EPA

Leaders of North America's joint bid for the 2026 World Cup said on Monday they have seen no evidence of anti-American sentiment as they enter the home stretch of the campaign.

The joint US-Canada-Mexico bid has long been viewed as the favourite to stage the most prestigious tournament in football, which will expand to 48 teams for the 2026 finals.

Only one other country - Morocco - is in the running to stage the tournament, which will be awarded during a Fifa vote in Moscow shortly before this year's World Cup kicks off in June.

However, anxiety has flickered over the possibility that comments from US President Donald Trump could hurt the North American bid.

Fears of possible lingering resentment against the US-led joint bid have also been raised by the fact that US law enforcement exposed systemic corruption in Fifa in 2015.

But speaking to reporters on a conference call on Monday, United States Soccer Federation chief Carlos Cordeiro, one of three co-chairs of the bid, said he did not believe anti-US sentiment would be a factor in the vote.

"This is not geopolitics this is football...we have had no backlash to our bid," Cordeiro said from Kuala Lumpur, where the bid is meeting Asian Football Confederation members. "We are focused on our bid and what we have to offer and we believe the Fifa community will make their decisions based on the merits of our bid.

"We are being met with open arms and great enthusiasm by all member associations that we meet," Cordeiro added, saying the bid had been received "very warmly" in Asia.

The North American bid recently reshuffled its leadership to include Cordeiro, Canada Soccer Association president Steve Reed and Mexican Football Federation chief Decio de Maria, replacing former USSF president Sunil Gulati, who had held the job exclusively.

This was an apparent strategic move aimed at shifting the perception that the bid as a largely American enterprise.

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Cordeiro said the move reflected the support the bid had received from the governments of the three host nations.

"We feel that with support and everything else we're getting from all three governments at the federal level, it was only appropriate that all three of us chair this bid," he said.

Meanwhile, Cordeiro said the bid was "not anticipating" any changes to the existing allotment of group games at the tournament. The United States is scheduled to host 60 games with Canada and Mexico 10 games each.

The United States will host all knockout games from the quarter-finals onwards.

However Cordeiro said no final decision on which country would host the opening game would be taken until after the June 13 vote. One proposal is for all three nations to host opening games on the first day of the tournament.

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