Hope Solo has been attempting to rebrand herself as a crusader since her forced departure from the U.S. women’s soccer team in 2016, when her contract was terminated after she called Sweden’s players “a bunch of cowards” for their defensive-minded ways in the Americans’ shootout loss at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Her main target is the U.S. Soccer Federation, whose conduct she described as “immoral and unconscionable” in announcing her candidacy for president of the organization late last year.
Solo did not come close to winning that election — she received just 1.4 percent of the vote and finished a distant fifth in the final round of voting — but that hasn’t lessened her criticisms of soccer’s governing body in the United States. Her latest salvo came this week, when she told CNN that there has to be a “more deserving” country than the United States to host the 2026 World Cup and told the Associated Press that “I don’t think it should go to the United States.”
“I do have a problem with an organization like that being awarded something so big and I would like to think there’s another country out there who is more deserving than the United States,” Solo said in her comments to CNN.
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The United States has put forward a joint bid with Mexico and Canada to host the 2026 World Cup and is being opposed by Morocco. FIFA member nations will vote on the tournament host Wednesday in Moscow, one day before this year’s World Cup begins in Russia.
“I can’t say it should be awarded to Morocco,” Solo said in her comments to the AP. “But I don’t think it should go to the United States, and that’s hard to say.”
A recent FIFA report deemed Morocco’s bid a “high risk” because of its lack of infrastructure and projected that the U.S./Mexico/Canada bid would bring in nearly double the revenue. It also noted that Morocco failed to mention the country’s anti-LGTB law in submitting its bid.
Solo’s criticisms center on U.S. Soccer’s failure to broaden the sport to athletes of all income levels via grass roots efforts, which she says has happened because the nonprofit group prizes money over just about everything else. She continued with her comments to CNN:
“I think any time you host a World Cup you’re going to have new generations of soccer fans and that’s important. It’s important especially in a younger country like America.
“It’s important for so many different reasons, I want to go myself to the World Cup in America.
“But, at the same time, I think it should be awarded to a country which abides by federal law, who is transparent, who runs their nonprofit organizations in the way it should be run, who aren’t hiding millions of dollars, and a company who actually answers these questions that want to be answered. They just ignore everybody.”
The “hiding millions of dollars” is an apparent reference to U.S. Soccer’s $150 million budget surplus whose existence is no secret. Carlos Cordeiro, who won the U.S. Soccer presidential election in February, has promised to expand the group’s outreach.
“For us to grow the sport into a preeminent position, we have to be more inclusive,” he said at the time. “We have to reach out to those underserved or diverse immigrant populations. It can’t be that we only have 3 or 3 1/2 million kids playing soccer in this country. We know there are more, but they are just not playing under the [USSF’s] umbrella.”
Responding to Solo’s comments, U.S. Soccer told CNN that the “vast majority of revenue that U.S. Soccer generates is invested back into player, coach and referee development.”
U.S. Soccer said it terminated Solo’s contract in 2016 because of an accumulation of incidents that went beyond the “cowards” comment at the Olympics. In 2015, she was suspended for 30 days after her husband was arrested for driving a U.S. team van while under the influence (she was a passenger in the vehicle at the time). The year before, she was arrested on domestic violence charges after an incident in which an allegedly drunk Solo assaulted her nephew and half sister (after a winding journey through the Washington state court system, prosecutors dismissed the charges last month, saying witnesses no longer wanted to testify). Solo also was removed from the national team at the 2007 Women’s World Cup after criticizing Coach Greg Ryan’s decision to go with Briana Scurry in goal for a semifinal match against Brazil. The Americans suffered a 4-0 loss, and afterward Solo said the choice of Scurry “was the wrong decision.”
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