New Leadership for North America's 2026 World Cup Bid

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(WFI) The United States, Mexico and Canada are looking for ways to strengthen their joint candidacy to host the FIFA World Cup in 2026.
Sunil Gulati is out as chairman of the 2026 bid (US Soccer)

What once seemed to be an easy victory for the North Americans to organize the event is now facing an ever-growing challenge from Morocco, the only other candidate. 

Hence the first big move for the Americans, Mexicans and Canadians has been a shuffle in their leadership. Former U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati is no longer the chairman and public face of the joint candidacy as he has been replaced by a team of three co-chairmen that includes recently elected U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro, along with Canadian Soccer Association president Steven Reed and Mexico Football Federation head Decio De Maria.

The move, announced on Tuesday, March 7 in a newsletter on www.United2026.com, hopes to stress the joint North American nature of the bid. Until now the candidacy had a markedly American flavor especially after it was announced that the majority of the 2026 World Cup matches would be played in the United States.

Canada, Mexico and the USA are changing 2026 strategy (United 2026)
Gulati, who didn’t seek election for a fourth term following the U.S. men's national team's failure to qualify for this summer’s World Cup, was at the head of the joint effort until Cordeiro took over last month as the newly elected USSF president. He will remain on the bid’s board and continue to be a conduit to global soccer’s top leadership through his position on FIFA’s leadership council.

Gulati praised the move on his Twitter account as the countries shifted to campaign mode.

“As we move from bid to campaign mode, appropriate for @CanadaSoccerEN, @ussoccer and @miseleccionmx Presidents to take lead. Looking forward to working with the 3 co-chairs and supporting the process. We are as unified as ever to bring 2026 FIFA World Cup to North America," Gulati wrote.

The new three co-presidents of the North American 2026 candidacy are already speaking in the newsletter of a unified front, with a “multi-cultural, multi-lingual football ethos” as one of their bids’ biggest strengths.

“Stability, certainty, resources, world-class facilities and experience needed to successfully host the new, expanded FIFA World Cup,” which will go from 32 to 48 teams, and “unrivaled commercial success” and “record ticketing revenue” were also listed in the newsletter.

The leadership shuffling for the North American bid also seems to respond to a geopolitical component. The on-going U.S investigation into widespread corruption at FIFA has led to the indictment and/or ouster of most of the body’s senior directors. That could diminish the votes for an American-led candidacy from federations that have perceived the efforts of the Justice Department as a witch-hunt against their former officials.

Carlos Cordeiro was elected US Soccer president last month (US Soccer)
In addition, President Trump's recent insults against developing countries and immigrants raises the prospect that the vote for the 2026 World Cup could turn into a referendum of the United States government’s policies. To counter that, the newsletter sent by the joint bid includes a hopeful message of diversity and inclusion.

“We are determined to show that in challenging times when forces around the globe too often pull people apart, football can remind us of the common values and ideals — humanity, friendship and mutual respect — that unite us as fellow human beings,” it reads.

Aside from the political motives, the change in leadership in the North American bid also has a practical component.

In the selection of a World Cup host, each of FIFA’s member federations now has a vote. So promoting Cordeiro, De María and Reed to co-chairmen means each can spend the next three months soliciting the support from national federation to national federation. Three for the price of one. They will have to overcome at times the unfamiliarity factor though. Cordeiro has been at his post a short time as has the Canadian football boss Reed, and neither has close ties within FIFA required to collect votes in such an exclusive organization.

Cordeiro, Reed and their Mexican “compadre” De Maria will know in less than a 100 days whether their efforts paid off. The winning bid will be announced in Moscow on June 13.

By INSIDER Javier Monne

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