Chicago drops out of World Cup bid, criticizes FIFA


Toronto FC forward Sebastian Giovinco (10) is brought down by Chicago Fire midfielder Khaly Thiam, second from right, during first half MLS soccer action, in Toronto on Saturday, July 9, 2016. (Chris Young/CP)

NEW YORK — Chicago, the home of the U.S. Soccer Federation, dropped out of the North American bid to host the 2026 World Cup as 23 cities were chosen to be included in documents to be submitted to FIFA on Friday.

Vancouver, British Columbia, said its bid was rejected because it refused to comply with FIFA’s requirements that include tax waivers and putting agreements under Swiss law. Six other U.S. cities were cut: Charlotte, North Carolina; Glendale, Arizona; Las Vegas; Minneapolis; Salt Lake City; and Tampa, Florida.

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 each of those nations would host 10 games.

Morocco also is bidding, and the 207 other FIFA members are scheduled to make the decision at FIFA Congress in Moscow on June 13. The 2026 World Cup will be the first with a 48-nation field, and if chosen the North American bid intends to ask FIFA to choose 16 venues for the tournament.

The chosen U.S. cities are Arlington, Texas; Atlanta; Baltimore; Cincinnati; Denver; East Rutherford, New Jersey; Foxborough, Massachusetts; Houston; Inglewood or Pasadena, California; Kansas City, Missouri; Landover, Maryland; Miami; Nashville, Tennessee; Orlando, Florida; Philadelphia; Santa Clara, California; and Seattle.

The Canadian cities are Edmonton, Alberta; Montreal; and Toronto; and Mexico’s are Guadalajara; Mexico City; and Monterrey.

Only two of the venues hosted games during the 1994 World Cup: the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

Though U.S. President Donald Trump disparaged Africa and Haiti in remarks in January, the North American organizers say they are confident they will get sufficient votes. New U.S. Soccer Federation President Carlos Cordeiro intends to address bid campaign plans with media next week.

Evidence introduced in U.S. District Court last year during the trial of former soccer executives documented bribes paid ahead of the 2010 vote by the FIFA executive committee that awarded the 2022 World Cup hosting rights to Qatar over the U.S. The vote for 2026 will be by the entire FIFA Congress rather than the roughly two dozen members of the executive committee, which chose the hosts from 1986-2022.

"The FIFA president has made very clear this will be the most transparent bid process ever, including a public vote amongst the Congress in Moscow," John Kristick, the North American bid director, said Thursday.

Unlike Morocco’s bid, the North American proposal does not require any stadium construction.

"What you’re seeing across international events is eliminating the need to invest in all new facilities and infrastructures," Kristick said. "The concept of having existing sustainable facilities is a major benefit, and that’s where our bid is clearly in an exceptional place."

Chicago was the site of the 1994 World Cup opener but declined to be part of the U.S. 2002 bid.

"FIFA could not provide a basic level of certainty on some major unknowns that put our city and taxpayers at risk," Matthew McGrath, a spokesman for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, said in a statement. "The uncertainty for taxpayers, coupled with FIFA’s inflexibility and unwillingness to negotiate, were clear indications that further pursuit of the bid wasn’t in Chicago’s best interests."

FIFA’s bid documents said "the government must grant a general tax exemption for FIFA" along with the local organizing committee and any subsidiaries and "unrestricted import and export of all foreign currencies." The documents also state "the government is requested to generally establish a visa-free environment or facilitate existing visa procedures for them."

FIFA also requires contracts with governments be under the jurisdiction of Swiss law. Hans Hultman, a spokesman for the international soccer governing body, said FIFA would respond as soon as possible to questions about the reasoning behind its requirements.

"It’s not unusual for an international event such as the World Cup or the Olympics to govern under Swiss law," Kristick said.

B.C. Tourism Minister Lisa Beare said FIFA’s provisions add "unknown costs and unknown risks to the B.C. taxpayers."

Holding a tournament in the U.S. would subject many of the documents generated to subpoena by the U.S. federal prosecutors, who have secured numerous guilty pleas to corruption charges from soccer officials since 2015 and obtained convictions at trial last year against Juan Angel Napout, the former president of South American soccer’s governing body, and Jose Maria Marin, the former president of Brazil’s soccer federation.


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