N. American World Cup bid hopes economics outweigh politics

From left, Decio de Maria, President of the Football Association of Mexico , Carlos Cordeiro, President of the United States Football Association and Peter Montopoli, Secretary-General of the Football Association of Canada, talk during a press conference, after a meeting with Various Soccer Unions to present their bid to host the Soccer World Cup 2026, in Copenhagen, Thursday May 3, 2018. (Anders Kjaerbye/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) The economics of North America’s three-nation bid to host the 2026 World Cup can outweigh politics in next month’s vote, according to the U.S. Soccer Federation president.

”We feel we’re going to get strong support across Europe regardless of the geopolitics,” Carlos Cordeiro said on Thursday at a campaign event in Denmark that was also attended by rival bidder Morocco.

The United States-Canada-Mexico bid could struggle to win over Russia and its allies in the June 13 vote of FIFA member federations in Moscow.

Morocco also counts on France and Spain for support, due to shared historical ties in North Africa.

The majority Muslim nation also hopes U.S. President Donald Trump’s public comments will influence voters from countries in Africa and Central America that he has criticized.

Trump stepped directly into the campaign in the past week. He wrote on Twitter it would be ”a shame if countries that we always support were to lobby against the U.S. bid,” then used a White House news conference with Nigeria’s president to call on African countries for votes.

However, Cordeiro said the bid leaders’ meeting on Wednesday with 12 South-east Asian voters in Indonesia suggested Trump was not a negative factor.

”I wasn’t expecting him to say what he said,” Cordeiro said in Copenhagen before adding: ”But look, I am pleased that my head of state is as focused and committed as he is and wants us to win.”

Up to 207 FIFA member federations can vote in Moscow, while the four candidates are barred. Cordeiro hoped voters ”for the most part will make their decisions based on football considerations.

”If they look at it on that basis, I think the merits of our bid speak for itself,” he said.

A North American tournament promises higher income for FIFA that is likely to run into billions of dollars, including from a much larger domestic market.

Bigger stadiums for the 80-game tournament led to projected ticket revenue $1.3 billion higher than Morocco’s forecast for venues which must all be built or renovated.

FIFA will also collect $300 million from North American broadcasters who will pay extra for 2026 rights they already hold if the tournament is at home.

Cordeiro acknowledged finances were ”a strong part of the bid” as FIFA seeks to develop the game worldwide.

”Ultimately that requires funding, and where is the funding going to come from?” he said.

Morocco bid CEO Hicham El Amrani also made a presentation on Thursday to the open meeting called by a six-nation group of Scandinavian and Nordic voters, although he did not hold a formal news conference.