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Bid committee influence could sway host city choice for 2026 World Cup

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Which cities will be included in the bid?

New England Patriots vs New Orleans Saints Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Earlier this month U.S. Soccer and the United Bid for the 2026 World Cup announced that 41 cities in the United States, Mexico, and Canada had expressed their interest in being included in the final bid that will be submitted to FIFA. Come later in September, the committee will release a short list of cities with the final list of chosen venues revealed in January.

As far as the American cities, there are several factors that will go into choosing the cities and stadiums that will host World Cup matches in 2026 if the bid is selected by FIFA. There are 32 cities and 35 stadiums all vying for a chance to be included in the final bid. The committee has noted that it will consider things like transportation infrastructure, hotel accommodations, facilities for teams, environmental initiatives, and past experience hosting sporting or cultural events.

In the end though, city selection is a political process in that it is determining what resources go where. As such, the best city or stadium may not get chosen for a game due to considerations that don’t necessarily have to do with the criteria mentioned above. Where the games end up being played in the U.S. might have something to do with who is putting the bid together. These folks are:

The United Bid Committee’s Board of Directors includes Sunil Gulati (Chairman), Steven Reed (Canada), Peter Montopoli (Canada), Decio De Maria (Mexico), Guillermo Cantu (Mexico), Carlos Cordeiro (USA), Donna Shalala (USA), Dan Flynn (USA), Don Garber (USA), Carlos Bocanegra (USA), Julie Foudy (USA), Ed Foster-Simeon (USA) and Victor Montagliani (CONCACAF). Legendary sports executive Robert Kraft has been appointed as Honorary Chairman of the Board.

The representatives on the bid committee from the U.S. include several names that have connections with cities interested in hosting matches:

  • Carlos Cordeiro: U.S. Soccer Vice President and in 2001 served on the board for the New York City Olympic Bid Committee.
  • Donna Shalala: Former Health and Human Services Secretary under President Bill Clinton and was the President of the University of Miami (FL) from 2001 to 2015, currently serving as an Independent Director on the U.S. Soccer Board. She is a native of Cleveland, Ohio.
  • Dan Flynn: CEO of the U.S. Soccer Federation, native of St. Louis, Missouri, and led sports marketing and held other management positions with Anheuser-Busch for nearly 20 years.
  • Don Garber: The U.S. Soccer Federation board member and Commissioner of MLS is from New York, which is also where the league is headquartered.
  • Carlos Bocanegra: The former U.S. Men’s National Team captain is the only member of the board who is employed by an MLS team, serving as the Technical Director for Atlanta United. The Five Stripes have taken MLS by storm selling out all of their home matches, drawing crowds of 70,000 plus, and averaging over 40,000 fans a game. Bocanegra also has ties to Southern California and Chicago from his time in MLS.
  • Julie Foudy: The former U.S. Women’s National Team World Cup winner has had as distinguished a career off the field as on it. After spending her playing career with the WNT, Stanford Cardinal, and domestic professional career in Sacramento and San Diego, Foudy became a commentator with ESPN, started the Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy, and has been active in the areas of sports medicine and Title IX advocacy. While these cities are not listed among the potential host locations, San Francisco is not too far from Palo Alto where Foudy attended Stanford.
  • Ed Foster-Simeon: President and CEO of the U.S. Soccer Foundation and USSF board member. Foster-Simeon got his start in soccer as the Vice President of the Virginia Youth Soccer Association and has connections with the Washington D.C. area.
  • Robert Kraft: Owner New England Revolution and Honorary Chairman of the United Bid Committee. Sunil Gulati spoke glowingly of him and the atmosphere for the matches at Foxboro Stadium near Boston during the 1994 World Cup when Kraft was named chairman.

A few cities also have noted connections to U.S. Soccer which could be a factor in influencing the committee. For example, the organization is based in Chicago and Soldier Field hosted matches in 1994 and has been consistently chosen for games in the Gold Cup as well as being a city featured during the Copa America Centenario.

At this point, none of the people associated with the bid seem like they would be representing a city or region that is not an obvious candidate to host matches during the 2026 World Cup. Still, these connections could sway the committee in choosing between deserving cities as it prepares the bid to host the tournament.