Sports Canada's World Cup bid leader confident as vote for 2026 tournament nears

17:01  16 may  2018
17:01  16 may  2018 Source:   cbc.ca

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And despite Morocco' s admission that it does not possess the stadiums to host a World Cup right now -- the bid leaders insist it would be prepared in 2026 should it win the race to stage the tournament

The North American bid team for the 2026 World Cup has defended the right of four US-governed territories to vote for the host of the tournament after a complaint was made to Fifa that it was a clear conflict of interest.

a man holding a sign: Canada Soccer general secretary Peter Montopoli is© Mark Blinch/Canadian Press Canada Soccer general secretary Peter Montopoli is

With the vote on the 2026 World Cup host less than a month away, Peter Montopoli is a man on the move.

The sales pitch for the joint bid by Canada, the U.S. and Mexico has taken the general secretary of the Canadian Soccer Association and colleagues around the globe in advance of the June 13 decision at the FIFA Congress in Moscow.

The so-called unified bid is up against Morocco in the race to host the men's soccer showcase.

Montopoli, who doubles as Canada bid director, points to a 1969 comedy about a whirlwind sightseeing tour of Europe called "If it's Tuesday, This Must be Belgium."

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"That was me the last two weeks and we actually ended up on a Tuesday in Belgium," he said.

Montopoli spent much of those two weeks meeting soccer officials in Asia, including stops in Jakarta, Bahrain and Oman, in addition to visits to Belgium, Denmark and Luxembourg. While Montopoli returned to Canada, the bid tour continued to Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

Final push

Montopoli will be in Lyon, France, for Wednesday's Europa Cup final, rejoining bid officials for one final push in Europe.

CSA president Steven Reed and chief marketing officer Sandra Gage, along with U.S. and Mexican soccer officials, are also on the road making the unified bid case.

"We feel very good," Montopoli said of the campaign.

He calls the message behind the unified bid "very accurate, 100 per cent truthful and very very compelling."

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The skyline of Toronto, Canada , named as one of 23 candidate cities for the North American 2026 FIFA World Cup bid , is seen in 2015. "We are confident that the combination of our 23 existing world -class stadiums, 150 existing elite Candidate cities for 2026 North America World Cup bid

It entered the two-horse race last August, running against a supremely confident and organised joint campaign from the US, Canada and Mexico. Trump tweeted: “The US has put together a STRONG bid w/ Canada & Mexico for the 2026 World Cup .

The race to host the 2026 World Cup has taken place in a compressed schedule with bid books due into FIFA on March 16. Morocco and the unified bid have been selling their visions to member associations ever since.

Montopoli calls it a seven-week "international relations campaign."

FIFA reforms have opened up the World Cup voting process, which in the past only involved the 24-person FIFA executive committee. This time every one of FIFA's 211 member associations — save the bidding countries and any association under suspension — can vote.

a man wearing a suit and tie: Canada's Peter Montopoli, left, with counterparts Carlos Cordeiro of the U.S., centre, and Mexico's Decio de Maria.© Anders Kjaerbye/Ritzau Scanpix via AP Canada's Peter Montopoli, left, with counterparts Carlos Cordeiro of the U.S., centre, and Mexico's Decio de Maria.

So Germany, whose team tops the FIFA world rankings, has the same say as No. 207 Tonga.

The battle lines are already being drawn. CONMEBOL, the South American confederation, came out last month in favour of the unified bid. A group of Central America (UNCAF) countries is also supportive.

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In April 2017, the US, Canada and Mexico announced a joint bid for the 2026 World Cup . The joint bid will be competing against Morocco, a country that has hosted several FIFA tournaments in the past.

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Montopoli says he expects CONCACAF, the confederation covering North and Central America and the Caribbean, to be behind the home bid. It helps that CONCACAF president is Canadian Victor Montagliani.

"The rest of the world is what we're working on currently," Montopoli said.

The head of the French Football Federation president told L'Equipe his vote is going to Morocco. Government officials in Dominica and Saint Lucia reportedly said they are also for Morocco.

Politics of world soccer

Montopoli points out it's the view of member associations rather than government that count. Still, the politics of world soccer are often anything but clear.

The well-oiled unified bid machine has left little to chance, with a string of co-ordinated releases and news conferences. But not everything has been in lock-step.

Vancouver, Chicago and Minneapolis dropped out, at odds with the demands placed on host cities.

And tweets last month in support of the bid by U.S. president Donald Trump, Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not go exactly according to plan when Trump's message seemed to suggest that not supporting the bid might come at a cost.

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“The U. S . has put together a STRONG bid w/ Canada & Mexico for the 2026 World Cup ,” Trump tweeted. World football’ s governing body FIFA will announce the winning bid after a vote on June 13 in Moscow, ahead of the start of this year’ s World Cup in Russia.

"The U.S. has put together a STRONG bid w/Canada & Mexico for the 2026 World Cup. It would be a shame if countries that we always support were to lobby against the U.S. bid. Why should we be supporting these countries when they don't support us (including at the United Nations)?"

Trump's disparaging of African countries likely also did not go down well, although Montopoli says such comments have not come up in his travels.

Montopoli says the message behind their bid is football brings people together.

Once FIFA decides on the tournament host, it could make changes to the blueprint for the expanded 48-team competition. The current plan calls for the U.S. to host 60 games with 10 for Canada and 10 for the U.S.

One change may already be on the horizon.

"One concept that we've pushed very hard and has been incredibly received by the entire world when we've presented it is the opening-day concept of an opening match in each country," said Montopoli. "So three opening matches, not just one."

Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton are the Canadian host cities in the bid.

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