Sunil Gulati has given way to the presidents of the USA, Mexico and Canada federations in a strategic move to fortify the North American bid against the opposing one from Morocco.
Tuesday’s shakeup to put three equal co-chairs from the U.S., Mexico and Canada atop North America’s World Cup 2026 bid in place of Sunil Gulati is the result of a few realizations. One, I’m told that organizers are well aware that Morocco’s bid is a real competitor and will have significant support from certain parts of the world. Putting Mexico and Canada on equal footing at the head of the bid is a gesture to draw support from nations that might not be in support of the U.S. these days.
Two, this World Cup hosting choice will involve voters from each one of the more than 200 countries in FIFA, as opposed to the two dozen voters for Russia and Qatar. Having more equal leaders in the North American bid means they can spread out more easily around the world to try and persuade voters. I’m told that U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro is set to visit Jordan this weekend with Mexican official Guillermo Cantú and meet with voters from the Middle East before heading to South America next week to meet with voters there.
The bid is trying to sell Mexico and Canada as equal partners—but as of now I’m told there are no plans to change the proposal that 60 of the 80 games would take place in the United States.
In other news, the official written bid for the North American effort closed Tuesday night and will be printed in seven languages ahead of next week’s FIFA deadline. I’m told that the city of Los Angeles, which was in danger of being left out of the bid after expressing serious concerns about whether to agree to FIFA’s terms for bid cities, has come around and accepted those terms.
Elsewhere in the soccer world:
Juventus asks Buffon to stay on for another year
Gianluigi Buffon is 40 years old, and many observers are wondering if one of the world’s greatest goalkeepers may retire at the end of this season. A source close to Juventus says the club has asked Buffon to stay for next season. The club does not know what Buffon plans to do, but some at Juve think the chances of Buffon sticking around have increased with his recent announcement that he’s willing to play for Italy again in March friendlies against Argentina and England.
Buffon had announced his international retirement when Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup, but those plans have changed, and the ascension of 19-year-old Gianluigi Donnarumma to the No. 1 spot with the Azzurri may have to wait.