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With 2026 World Cup in hand, the real work begins for US Soccer.

The United States couldn’t get into the 2018 World Cup, but on Wednesday the 2026 World Cup was brought to the U.S. Now what can we do with it? After the Men’s National Team failed to reach this summer’s tournament, which kicks off Thursday in Russia, the United Bid (a cooperative between the U.S., Mexico...
Time: 23:17     Date: 13.06.2018
Last US Sport News: With 2026 World Cup in hand, the real work begins for US Soccer. NY Post 24 - US News

Now what can we do with it?

After the Men’s National Team failed to reach this summer’s tournament, which kicks off Thursday in Russia, the United Bid (a cooperative between the U.S., Mexico and Canada) won the right to host the 2026 World Cup. Now, the sport’s power brokers need to build on that victory.

It’s still undetermined if all three hosts will get automatic berths, as they have in the past. Considering America’s glaring absence in Russia, it’s vital U.S. Soccer leverages enough advancement over the next eight years to make that question moot.

“We believe soccer — or football — will become the preeminent sport in North America,” U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro said via teleconference. “The reality is in the United States on the men’s side, we have a lot of competition with three or four other sports; we’re not at the top yet. We believe this event will become a lightning rod, transformational for the sport. Kids who are now 8, 10, 12 years old can all dream of potentially playing for a national team.”

Futbol has long been king in Mexico, but now there are more kids playing soccer in Canada than hockey. Although just four million players are registered in the U.S., despite a population of a third of a billion, Cordeiro said he believes that amount can be tripled by bringing the game to our “disenfranchised and underserved.”

Hosting the 1994 World Cup spawned Major League Soccer. Having the league already in place gives this World Cup a stateside soccer engine to turbo-charge. MLS commissioner Don Garber called it “a monumental step in our collective mission to further advance the game of soccer in North America” and added “there’s no doubt that World Cup 2026 will elevate the sport of soccer to entirely new levels.”

Cobi Jones, who played in the 1994, 1998 and 2002 World Cups — watched the bid in a New York office with former teammate Brian McBride, U.S. Soccer CEO Dan Flynn and U.S. National Team GM Earnie Stewart. Jones helped the fledgling MLS in 1996, and said this World Cup can have even more impact.

“The legacy of the ’94 World Cup, MLS came out of it. Twenty-odd years later everything has come through that World Cup,” Jones told The Post. “In 2026 the dollars will be more, more attention, impact. Interest will pick up in the sport, [giving] an opportunity for kids in underserved communities to pick up as the money flows into it, and enjoy and play this game. Tapping into ’94, nobody expected [MLS] to be where it is now. I’m excited to see what the possibilities are.

“The onus will be on the powers-that-be to make sure the money and attention flows to those underserved communities, the money trickles down and is invested in the right ways. To be frank, we’re investing in our soccer future. … It’s more players into the pot, which is beneficial not just for soccer and MLS but society. I’m a proponent of sport being beneficial in learning skills in life: Why not soccer?”

FIFA will decide if the hosts get automatic bids. But to ensure the point is moot, Jones said the U.S. must reach underserved communities to find talent, develop teens such as Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and the Red Bulls’ Tyler Adams and bring soccer passion to the public.

“It’s huge for our country as a whole. MLS is growing a lot, so to have international teams coming to the U.S. to see how we’ve grown as a country,” U.S. midfielder Kellyn Acosta, 22, said in video from FC Dallas. “To play a World Cup match in front of my friends and family, that’d be huge. I’m definitely excited.”

Pulisic, McKennie, Adams and Acosta, plus youngsters such as Josh Sargent and PSG’s Queens-bred Timothy Weah, will be in their prime when the World Cup comes stateside. Former U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati told ESPN the most important time in the U.S. capitalizing on 2026 starts today.

“It’s always been about this period right now, from the day you get the bid to the day the World Cup kicks off. That’s more important in so many ways than the 31 or 32 days of the event,” Gulati said. “The critical day is what’s it look like the day after? It’s about building the sport in those eight years using the leverage of the World Cup … and hoping that the game is at a higher level the day after.”

Said ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman: “[Soccer] is on the brink of becoming a major sport because kids these days — on their phones, video games — it’s FIFA, it’s soccer. The games only last two hours. I can go on and on about what this sport means. I just think it’s going to blossom having the world’s biggest event in this country. [In] 2026 we may be having a different discussion.”

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Opinion

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Living

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Business

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Metro

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Sport

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