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United we stand | USA, Canada and Mexico 2026 bid chiefs talk to SportBusiness

On June 13, the 68th Fifa Congress will decide which of two bids will win the right to host the biggest ever World Cup in 2026.

Ahead of their appearance at the upcoming Sportel Sports Decision Makers Summit in Miami, John Kristick, executive director of the United Bid from the USA, Canada and Mexico, is joined by Yon de Luisa, bid director – Mexico and Peter Montopoli, bid director – Canada, to address some key questions.

Compared to the US bid for 2022, how does a joint bid change the dynamic of the process and your role?

John Kristick: “There are a lot of differences in this bid process compared to seven years ago. The timeline has been condensed, so we have had to organise the entire bid in less than a year, compared to having nearly double that time in previous bids. Fifa has significantly raised the bar for the 2026 competition – as the first 48-team Fifa World Cup, the requirements for hosting when it comes to stadia, training sites, hotels and other infrastructure are greater. And the process is more open and transparent, including, for the first time, giving each of the member associations a vote to decide the outcome. We are still bidding to host the world’s greatest sporting event, but almost every other part of the process has changed.

“For the first time, Fifa also encouraged joint bids between countries. Canada, Mexico, and the United States joined together because we felt that our three countries, and the 23 candidate host cities that we have included as part of the bid, can be counted on to deliver the experience, infrastructure and the resources that the 2026 Fifa World Cup will demand. Still, submitting a proposal and working to coordinate all aspects of what the largest-ever Fifa World Cup will be, is not an easy task. Having an extended team of experienced and talented professionals has been not only beneficial to getting our bid in place, but an extremely rewarding experience for me personally.”

What do the three very different members of the United bid bring to the party?

Yon de Luisa: “We are three proud countries, connected through history, culture, geography, and partnership – celebrating the rich heritage of football and the game’s unique ability to connect and inspire people around the world.

“We each have existing, proven facilities, experience, and professional management teams ready to go in the largest combined commercial market in the world. Unlike some past Fifa World Cup events, no major construction or capital investment is required, so instead of dealing with construction timelines and related challenges, we will focus on building the future of football in our nations – and around the world – as well as guarantee that the 1,100 of the world’s finest players will have everything they need to be at their very best.

“And, most importantly, we are aligned in our desire to help Fifa fulfil its future vision – which includes not only staging a successful Fifa World Cup in 2026, but also growing the women’s game, engaging more fans, making meaningful, measurable progress on issues including human rights and the environment, and much more. Our three countries have different perspectives, different experiences and assets – which, when combined, provide Fifa and the member associations with the unity, certainty and opportunity needed to position global football for success in the century ahead.”

Why is now the right time for a joint bid?

Peter Montopoli: “The 2026 Fifa World Cup will be the largest ever – with 48 teams and 80 matches. Fifa recognised in its vision the need to establish a new model, one where multiple countries could share the responsibility of hosting – and in doing so avoid the challenges we have seen in the past. The United Bid is not only uniquely capable of staging this larger, more complex competition, but we are committed to establishing the blueprint that will help future hosts to succeed as well.

“Canada, Mexico, and the United States offer Fifa an unprecedented, united opportunity to stage this new, larger event, with a low risk operational certainty that is only exceeded by its opportunity to grow, enhance and propel global football forward for years to come. With our stadia, training facilities and base camps already in place, players and fans won’t have to worry whether the necessary infrastructure will be ready. We’ll be able to focus on what matters most – coming together for an unprecedented global celebration of football.

“I also want to stress the importance of unity. Our bid sends a positive message to the world. We are neighbours with shared borders, cultures and values and we’ve never been more united than in this quest to host the 2026 Fifa World Cup.”

What would a successful bid do to boost the status of soccer in each of the three countries?

Yon de Luisa: “Overall, hosting the 2026 Fifa World Cup would accelerate the development of football throughout North America, making it one of the planet’s most vibrant football communities. We have already seen an immense growth of football in the Concacaf region over the past three decades, which can be attributed to dramatic changes in technology and social media, as well as, our three host countries’ hosting of major Fifa events in the past.

“Hosting the 2026 Fifa World Cup would be significant to the football communities in each our countries for various reasons. In Mexico, the government would use the 2026 Fifa World Cup to inspire younger generations to be active and involved in sport through programmes linked with the competition; Canada would address gender imbalances and use this time to promote positive messaging surrounding gender; and the United States would benefit from hosting the games by further promoting and creating a greater fan base.”

Has the US national team’s failure to qualify for Russia 2018 made any difference to public support for the bid?

John Kristick: “Not at all. Our bid has the support of our fans across our nations – nearly 80 per cent of people surveyed said they support hosting, and already want to buy tickets. We also have the backing of our three federal governments, local officials throughout our candidate host cities, and hundreds of leaders from the business, civic, sports and other communities who support the United Bid.”

What would a successful United bid do for the brand of the Fifa World Cup?

John Kristick: “It is clear that Fifa’s vision for the future includes a model where countries share the responsibility for hosting. Canada, Mexico, and the United States fully embrace that vision and together we can meet the needs of Fifa and the global football family – ‘United, AS ONE’.

“Our bid offers 23 candidate host cities to choose from in confirming the final 16 host cities – which gives Fifa unprecedented choice and flexibility in deciding how best to stage the competition. In addition to our stadia, we offer the finest training facilities, hotels, and other infrastructure – players, officials, fans, media, partners and others need to enjoy the Fifa World Cup to the fullest. Our hosting strategy, and our plans for the match schedule, creates the optimal playing conditions.

“The United Bid has also committed to working with Fifa to develop a comprehensive ‘fan pass’ to ensure smooth travel between the three countries, syncing match ticket, domestic travel, hotel accommodation, Fifa Fan Fest access, and more. Every fan will also have complimentary access to public transport within each host city on match days. And as the largest commercial market on the planet, we see opportunities to re-imagine the fan experience, engage sponsors and partners in new ways, and further expand the reach and influence of global football across North America and around the world.

“Lastly, we see our geography as an advantage. The 2026 Fifa World Cup will be hosted across three-time zones, so we can offer the best of all worlds to fans, broadcasters and commercial partners. Football may have been invented on Greenwich Mean Time, but it’s a global game today. Our afternoon kick-offs will hit primetime in Europe and Asia, and our primetime kick-offs will hit early afternoon in East Asia – Fifa’s largest audience at Brazil 2014, where China alone represented 12 per cent of the global reach.

“That is part of the reason we are confident United 2026 can help Fifa set new commercial revenue records which will benefit not only Fifa itself, but will help grow the sport in each of 211 member associations.”

What are the three things that make you confident of success?

John Kristick: “There is still a lot of time left before the Fifa Congress gathers in Moscow to decide the outcome of this process. We aren’t taking anything for granted – our leaders are traveling the world making the case for the unity, certainty, and opportunity of our bid. We are working hard to earn the support of all the member associations around the world.

“As we talk to the member associations, we stress three things. Firstly, that that the three countries offer the experience, the infrastructure and the resources necessary to make this event an unprecedented success for Fifa and the entire global football family.

“Secondly, our candidate host cities have a proven track record of successfully hosting the world’s largest international sporting events and each has an existing, world-class, stadium ready to go with a confirmed legacy after the competition.

“Also, we stress that the bid offers Fifa and its member associations a level of operational certainty and opportunity that we think will help accelerate investment in and the growth of the game of football around the world.”

And what are you wary of?

John Kristick: “Right now, we are just focused on our bid and making sure we deliver the best experience for football fans around the world. We are confident the voters will make their decision based on the merits of the bid – and we think the United Bid makes a very strong argument for being the best possible host for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.”

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