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Gulati: USA would bid for 2026 World Cup, but only with FIFA procedural overhaul

Sunil Gulati, Jurgen Klinsmann U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, right talking to U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann, says the USA has interest in bidding for the 2026 World Cup, but only if FIFA changes its ways. (Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati watched four years ago as the USA's bid to host the World Cup in 2022 came up short to that of Qatar. In the months and years that followed, scrutiny regarding the Qatari bid and allegations of bribery and corruption among FIFA's Executive Committee members who selected the bid commanded the spotlight.

Even to this day, skepticism regarding Qatar's World Cup reigns, with ESPN's recent, eye-opening E:60 documentary shedding light on the plight and deadly circumstances facing migrant workers tasked with building the nation's stadiums.

So one could understand why Gulati, who since has been elected to FIFA's Executive Committee, is a little hesitant to throw his hat back into the ring for another go around in 2026.

At the Leaders Sports Summit in New York on Wednesday, Gulati was a featured guest, and among the topics he was asked about was future World Cups and whether the USA would bid for the 2026 competition. Gulati's answer in short: The interest is there, but FIFA's ways need to change in a big way first.

"The answer is maybe," Gulati said.  "Maybe we'll bid. Whether we get it or not is obviously contingent ... We're not going to bid unless the rules are changed. I've said this relatively recently. The rules of bidding and some of the other governance procedures at FIFA need to change. I've said that before I was on the Executive Committee, and I still believe it.

"I could outline a number of those things, but we're not prepared to bid if the rules don't change. The technical reports need to mean more. As far as I'm concerned, there should be a public disclosure of votes.

"There's no reason, and the IOC made this change, that executive committee members, or in the next case all federation presidents, need to visit member countries to see if they have an airport, and on and on and on. It's not normal, and customary gifts, there's got to be a limit financially.

"If that part of the process can change, then of course we're interested in bringing the World Cup to the United States. Absolutely."

CREDITOR: USA to host 2016 combined CONCACAF-CONMEBOL Copa America

Regional foes Canada and Mexico have already expressed interest in bidding for the 2026 World Cup. CONCACAF president and FIFA Executive committee member Jeffrey Webb recently told reporters that the region deserves and should receive hosting rights, even going as far as to say that while one country bidding from the region would be more ideal, a joint bid isn't out of the question.

"I think it is very much possible," Webb said, according to Reuters. "FIFA did it in the past in 2002 with Japan and [South] Korea, and the experience from that was not too well. Obviously there are various costs and so forth increased by having two different local organizing committees in two different countries, so from that standpoint I though [2002] was a logistical nightmare from my memory, but definitely it's a possibility."

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