From everything we could see, Philadelphia’s bid to host the 2026 Men’s World Cup did a good job arguing its case before the FIFA judges who visited the city on Wednesday.
There was a bus ride from their hotel to Lincoln Financial Field, with electronic notice boards along Market Street carrying messages of support.
There were banners at all venues in the sports complex, with Citizens Bank Park being the most notable. The cooperation of the Phillies will be necessary for a busy summer on Pattison Ave. runs smoothly.
And when the dignitaries arrived at the Linc, there was a group of loud supporters forming a welcoming committee at the stadium. They kept the noise up as new nominee chairman Daniel Hilferty, Mayor Jim Kenney and Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and chairman Don Smolenski greeted their visitors at the top of the Headhouse Plaza steps.
“It was obvious that – I think in maybe typical Philadelphia fashion – it was very clear that you wanted it,” Concacaf president and FIFA vice president Victor Montagliani said at a conference. release in the early afternoon. He was one of the city’s Big Three, along with FIFA Tournament and Events Manager Colin Smith and CEO of the American Football Federation and secretary general Will wilson.
When the crowd dispersed and the big names disappeared into the meetings, one reality emerged for Philadelphia’s candidacy: it is unlikely to succeed. Especially if FIFA is sticking to its previously announced plan to pick 10 US host cities to accompany those of Canada and Mexico.
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The first locks are those in New York / New Jersey and Los Angeles, one of which will host the final. Next is Miami, unprecedented in its cultural influences from South and Central America – media, sports, banking, etc.
Next are the stadiums with retractable roofs, which means air-conditioned matches can be played there in the afternoon during prime time in Europe. Enter Dallas, Atlanta and Houston.
Now add the San Francisco Bay Area (Santa Clara, officially) and Seattle to create a Western City Cluster and shorten travel times for teams, which is understandably a priority for FIFA.
That’s eight of the 10 spots taken before any consideration of the remaining Northeast competitors: Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Boston. Or the other cities in the running: Cincinnati, Denver, Kansas City, Nashville and Orlando.
The cities of Mexico are defined: Monterrey, Guadalajara and Mexico City. Canada will have Toronto and Edmonton, and could add Vancouver if The hometown of Montagliani decides to come back to the race. If so, it will be well received by the continental organizers. If not, an additional US city could be chosen.
Why would Philadelphia be refused? A big clue was seen at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft greeted FIFA President Gianni Infantino in the Patriots’ victory over the New York Jets – on the field before the game, in a hanging suite, and in the New England locker room thereafter.
It’s no secret in American football that Kraft and Infantino are close to Sunil Gulati, the former president of American football and a member of the FIFA Council who helped Infantino win his post in a very publicized five years ago. We’re not sure what Kraft and Infantino talked about for sure, but you don’t have to try too hard to guess.
READ MORE: Philadelphia bid started having online meetings with FIFA in March
On the same day that Infantino’s unofficial visit, the official FIFA delegation was in Washington and Baltimore. They were greeted in the nation’s capital by endorsers including Mexico’s Ambassador to the United States, a reminder of DC’s global weight.
If Kraft’s campaign is successful (and many people think it will), FIFA will ignore decades of complaints from visiting national teams about the distance between Foxborough and downtown Boston (around 30 miles, with a notoriously bad traffic) and how long it takes to get from city hotels to local practice facilities.
If FIFA wants to get to Washington, they’ll ignore FedEx Field’s countless flaws and go to Washington. (Frankly, if FIFA wants to go somewhere, they will.)
As Smith stood on a podium on the Linc field, he praised the Philadelphia officials for giving “just an exceptionally well structured and detailed presentation today, with real substance in all areas that go into a Cup. of the world”. He particularly complimented the stadium’s natural grass surface, an asset that many competition venues do not have.
But the substance Smith referred to – a formidable stadium, better access to public transport than its competitors, and one of the smallest carbon footprints of any candidate city – won’t be enough to win.
The city will have to look much higher, literally and figuratively. And Wednesday, that’s exactly what he did.
Philadelphia has already played a big card in making David L. Cohen the first president of the bid. He’s a close friend of President Biden, one of the only people on the planet who would rank higher on a marquee than a FIFA bigshot (by FIFA standards, that is) . If Washington can have the Mexican Ambassador to the United States on board, then you can be sure that Cohen will stay nearby after he becomes Biden’s Ambassador to Canada.
(Cohen’s Senate confirmation hearing in Washington coincidentally also took place on Wednesday.)
READ MORE: Senators praised David Cohen at hearing on his appointment as Ambassador to Canada
The second card was played on Wednesday – and it was placed right in the middle of the table.
Over the past decade, Comcast has paid FIFA nearly $ 700 million for Spanish-language broadcast rights in the United States for each FIFA tournament from 2015 to 26. This includes three level Men’s World Cups. senior (with 2022 and ’26 still to come) and three senior-level Women’s World Cups (with ’23 still to play).
Of the total spent, $ 600 million was for a rights deal that ran from 2015-22. The rest, including the 2026 men’s tournament, came in a no-auction deal whereby FIFA has proposed to incumbents Telemundo, Fox (in English) and Bell Media (in Canada) to postpone a threatened lawsuit for moving the 2022 Men’s World Cup from summer to fall, where it will straddle the NFL season.
Comcast has also made significant financial investments in the English Premier League ($ 1.125 billion over nine years, with further rights negotiations pending), Olympic football and the Concacaf Men’s World Cup qualifiers. across the continent, including the United States and Mexico. road games.
If Kraft can use its influence to bring the World Cup games to Boston, then it is right that Comcast use its influence to bring the World Cup games to Philadelphia.
After Wednesday’s meetings ended, the bid committee unveiled its ace in the hole. Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and Telemundo Chairman Beau Ferrari, tall as the big names are, were guest speakers at the closed-door meetings at the Linc. And Cohen rushed to Philadelphia after his audition to offer a few words to FIFA in the late afternoon.
When Hilferty spoke at the press conference, he said: “As we finished our presentation this morning, I told Victor and Colin and the whole delegation that I hope they saw something. thing very clearly. This is what we want and we are ready to keep all of our commitments and do as much as possible. “
The inclusion of Roberts, Ferrari and Cohen was a big proof.
Now the game is on for real.