U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati
2026 FIFA World Cup Unified Bid Announcement
April 10, 2017
One World Trade Center – New York City
Opening Remarks from the top floor of One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere that overlooks New York City:
“It’s a pretty extraordinary place, this building; the sites from this building, it says a lot about New York, a lot about the United States. You can see Red Bull Arena on one side, which is obviously part of the legacy of World Cup ‘94. You can see Giants Stadium on the other side, where we had Copa America some months ago. The last time I stood here, almost in this very spot, was to say goodbye to Copa America. And now, today, we are saying hello to something else, and that’s the 2026 World Cup and our efforts to bring that back to the United States, Canada and Mexico. I can’t think of a better place to do that, with Lady Liberty outside. Canada and Mexico, as well as virtually every other nationality in this world, is within site from here in Manhattan. The diversity of this country is extraordinary and we looking forward to welcoming the world after what we hope is a very successful bid.
“For almost three or four years now, we’ve been talking very quietly, very gently, with our counterparts. In the Mexico Federation’s case, there’s been a change in the Presidency and we’ve been talking regularly with (Mexican Football Federation President) Decio (De Maria) about today, about this dream of trying to bring the world to North America and sharing this World Cup. We’ve been doing the same with (Canada Soccer Association and CONCACAF President) Victor (Montagliani), even before he was elected president, and we’ve become very good friends. It’s taken a long time to get to today. Why? Because we needed to know what the rules were. We needed to know how many teams were going to participate. We needed to watch the result of an American election and many other things, but before this press conference is over, we will sign a memorandum of understanding between three countries signifying that we will bid together. The general parameters of that bid are a World Cup of 80 games, three-quarters of which will be played in the United states. Sixty games in the United States and ten each in Canada and Mexico. The final decisions on those things are up to FIFA, it’s their tournament, but that will be our proposal and that is our agreement together.
“Why is this important to U.S Soccer? If you look at everything that’s happened since ‘94, the growth of the game, especially the growth of Major League Soccer, and the growth of our other pro leagues, the NASL, the USL, and of our player development, it’s an extraordinary impetus. We now have a women’s professional league and successful Men’s and Women’s National Teams. Another World Cup would further (the growth of soccer in the USA), and would do the same in Canada – maybe Canada is where we were 20 years ago, and what a growth spurt could happen there – as well as bring the World Cup back to Mexico. The first World Cup I went to was in 1986, an extraordinary event, the World Cup of Diego Maradona. The last World Cup I went to was in Canada and watching the U.S. team win there, another extraordinary event. So, we think it will be extraordinary in terms of the growth of the game in North America.
“One other comment I should make is that we have the full support of the United States government in this project. The President of the United States is fully supportive and encouraged us to have this joint bid. He is especially pleased that Mexico is a part of this bid and in the last few days we’ve gotten further encouragement on that. We are not at all concerned about some of the issues that other people may raise. We looked a bidding alone and decided in the end, we wanted to bid with our partners in North America and we have strong encouragement from President Trump to that end. So thank for coming today, and we look forward to an extraordinary process and an extraordinary World Cup.”
On if the venues for the Final and Opening Match have been decided:
“Everything eventually gets decided in conjunction with FIFA. Our main goal is to make sure the Final is hosted somewhere in North America. We have an agreement regarding the number of games and that the games starting at the quarterfinals forward would all be in United States, so that means the Final would be in the U.S. The opening game is in discussion, but we’ve got a long way to go. We first have to obtain the World Cup and what we’re most focused on right now is making sure the World Cup comes to CONCACAF and comes to North America and those sorts of things will get worked out afterwards.”
On the factors in deciding to submit a combined bid given that fact the USA could have easily hosted the tournament on its own:
“You’re right, we could have hosted the tournament on own, whether it’s at 64 or 80 games. Frankly, a few countries around the world could. Mexico has put on two spectacular World Cups and they’ve clearly shown that they can (host). Canada put on a terrific World Cup on the women’s side. So, there’s several pieces to that. One is we think it makes our bid stronger in terms of the 209 (FIFA) members that eventually decide. That’s the pragmatic part. Clearly, between the three countries, we have 40-50 stadiums that meet FIFA’s qualifications and criteria; in regards to cities, hotels and air (travel), and all of that (we’re covered). The other part is that we think it’s terrific for soccer in the region, for Canada, Mexico and the U.S., given the close relationships we have already. And third, given the interesting world in which we live, and the place we are holding this particular press conference, and the Statue of Liberty outside, and a whole bunch of things along those lines, from a social perspective, it’s a positive. We don’t believe sports can solve all the issues of the world, but especially what’s going on in the world today, we think this a hugely positive signal and symbol of what we can do together in unifying people, especially in our three countries.”
On how the current political climate regarding the U.S. and Mexico governments would impact the bid:
“We’re not going to get too much into politics today in discussing American foreign policy or anyone else’s foreign policy. What I can tell you is we have very specifically addressed this with the President, he is fully supportive of the joint bid, encouraged the joint bid and is especially pleased by the fact that Mexico is participating in this joint bid with us. Those are all positives.”
On how many venues would be used and what would happen to the MLS season during that summer?
“On the first question, we don’t have an answer to that. Ultimately, that’s a decision that gets made with FIFA. I think it’s safe to say that given the infrastructure that exists in our countries and the lack of a need to build new stadiums or new hotels or anything else, we would generally be in favor of more venues than less. We are still trying to grow the game in Canada and the U.S., in a different way than in Mexico perhaps, so we have an agreement of the minimum number of stadiums each of us would have to put into the bid. I think it will actually be much greater than that, but we have minimums, and I think with 80 games and 48 teams, plus a qualifying tournament that will be in the previous November for the last couple of spots, we have the ability to play at far more venues than ever have been the case, and still be cost effective.
“We have sat down quite a bit in this entire process with Don Garber as I mentioned because he’s an important part of our bid team, but we will sit down with him in his role as Commissioner of Major League Soccer if we’ve got the World Cup, but that’s some ways down to the road.”
On the positives of having dozens of match-ready stadiums throughout the three countries:
“We have the luxury of being able to pick from stadiums and cities that very few countries in the world have. Given what’s happened in the last few World Cups and some of the Olympic games, the thought of building sports facilities that don’t have a long-term use is not particularly inviting to anyone. In all or our cases, we have stadiums that exist for professional teams or for other events and we think that’s a huge advantage, not just for us, but for FIFA and for the IOC. Infrastructure that’s in place and developed for the NFL or for the league in Mexico, or whatever it might be, is a far better solution than spending hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars (for venues) that don’t have use beyond the tournament.”
On the bid process:
“There’s not a lot we would change about how we bid last time. We were obviously very disappointed, but we moved on. You haven’t heard me say anything about the decision at that point. I’ve said a few things about the process and that’s why we’ve waited so long to make a final decision because the process has to be better, the process has to be transparent, the process has to be public, and the process has to include technical standards. All of those things are now a part of the process. So, this will be a vote that is public. This will be a technical process that is part of the bid process formally, and if someone cannot meet those technical standards, as the IOC has had for years – FIFA has not – they would be excluded from it. Those are very specific and strong statements that are part of the FIFA regulations.”
On potential costs of the World Cup bid:
“Our bid last time cost roughly eight-and-half million dollars. We raised about half of that from private sources and half of that half from the investor/operators of Major League Soccer. I don’t think that we are going to spend the sorts of funds that other countries do when they bid. Well, let me make this clear, we’re not going to spend the sort of money, that in some cases were nine-figure amounts in the last bid…and there’s a couple reason for that. The three countries have extraordinary capacities within the Federations that an external bid committee would normally have to do, media, communications, all those sorts of things. Number two, because of the infrastructure that already exists in all three countries, we don’t have to do any designs of new stadiums, we don’t have to show how we are going to build a new city, we don’t have to show how we are going to have a new hotel complex. All those things are done. Which is part of the reason our bid last time cost a lot less than most. England’s was also relatively inexpensive, Belgium-Holland, the same for the same reasons. We don’t have an amount on that yet. Once we see the what the rules are and what technical standards are, which we’ll have in about 30 days, then we’ll be in better position to fund it. But whatever it takes, all three of us are committed that we will spend the funds to do it. If that means raising funds privately, fine, but all three Federations are in the position that we can self-fund if it we need to.”
On the impact of travel over three countries on the continent:
“In some ways it’s less of an issue than it would be if we did it on our own. What you do in the first round and in the round of 32 is group (venues) properly. To use an example, if Seattle, Vancouver, San Francisco, L.A. and Guadalajara were all venues, no one has to do much travel in terms of time zones. Brazil is a big country and in the case of Brazil, where some stadiums were built, and you had long flights, but we have the ability to host this entire tournament essentially along the west coast of Mexico, the USA and Canada if we wanted, or along the East Coast, the Midwest, Mexico City (and Toronto); We can minimize travel. There’s obviously some transcontinental travel, but it won’t be an issue.”