In a wide-ranging interview that included discussion about North America’s victorious bid two weeks ago to host the 2026 World Cup, Cordeiro said Earnie Stewart, the newly hired general manager, has begun the vetting process in identifying candidates.
“He has a list,” said Cordeiro, who was elected president in February. “I wouldn’t call it a shortlist, but he has a list. He definitely is pulling things together,” even though Stewart will not formally leave his executive post with MLS’s Philadelphia Union until the end of July.
In the wake of the Americans missing the World Cup for the first time since 1986, Bruce Arena resigned as the head coach. His chief assistant, Dave Sarachan, has run the program with a variety of assistants. Sarachan’s contract is due to expire this month.
Cordeiro praised Sarachan, saying: “He has given his heart and soul. It hasn’t been nine-to-five.”
Sarachan is not believed to be a candidate for the permanent job but could end up with another role in the federation. Since November, he has integrated several young players and overseen a 2-1-3 record. Early this month, the Americans lost at Ireland, 2-1, and drew at France, 1-1.
Stewart is expected to cast a global net, which could include Mexican national team coach Juan Carlos Osorio. But he also will consider U.S.-based figures, a group that might include under-20 national team coach Tab Ramos and MLS’s Peter Vermes (Sporting Kansas City) and Gregg Berhalter (Columbus Crew).
If a replacement isn’t named by the end of the summer, it’s unclear who would guide the team for up to six friendlies this fall. The Americans will play Brazil on Sept. 7 in East Rutherford, N.J., and Mexico on Sept. 11 in Nashville.
They also have been in talks with Argentina and Colombia about October matches at U.S. venues, though recent issues have stalled progress toward a deal. The team also will visit England and Italy in November.
“We’re not in any panic to do this,” Cordeiro said. “When we have the right candidate, it will be very obvious to us. … Ideally, I would love to [hire someone by September]. We’re not raising expectations that it will.”
Meanwhile, Cordeiro said North American bid officials had a good idea in the final days of the campaign for 2026 hosting rights that they would prevail against Morocco.
“We knew, barring a major seismic shift, we would win,” he said. “There were some pleasant surprises the night before [such as getting Russia’s vote], and there were some disappointments. Some votes didn’t materialize, but we didn’t need those votes.”
The United Bid, as it was known, won by a two-to-one margin.
The key, Cordeiro said, was the strategy of the three chairmen traveling the globe to meet face to face with voters. Those efforts, combined with a superior bid package, were persuasive.
“It wasn’t just that we had the best facilities,” he said. “We couldn’t write a letter. We had to go out and talk to people.”
The commercial impact of a World Cup in North America was a big selling point. Cordeiro said he foresees many major U.S. corporations sponsoring the sporting world’s most popular competition. In the wake of a 2015 corruption scandal, FIFA struggled to attract high-end sponsors for the current World Cup.
Those riches would benefit American soccer development, as well.
“Without resources, we can talk all we want, but how do you make soccer more affordable? How do you bring more coaches in?” said Cordeiro, a former Goldman Sachs executive. “We have to get into the [corporate] blood stream, and when we do, it will become contagious because businesses will want to jump on.”
Money will not solve all of U.S. soccer’s problems.
“We have to fix the landscape soon, so we have very clear pathways for these kids, particularly in states that don’t have [development] academies,” he said. “We have a lot to do.”
Cordeiro has been in Russia since the bid vote, joining FIFA delegations attending matches around the country. It has allowed him to observe operations and continue discussions with FIFA leaders.
Cordeiro and his Mexican and Canadian counterparts, Decio de Maria and Steven Reed, chaired the bid campaign.
The United States is slated to host 60 of 80 matches in a tournament that in 2026 will expand to 48 teams from 32. Mexico and Canada will stage 10 games apiece.
Planning for the event will begin in earnest in September or October, Cordeiro said.
“We’re now working with FIFA as opposed to trying to convince them we are the better of the two candidates,” he said. “It will take on a cooperative, collaborative effort and not a competitive effort. We’re all on the same page: We want the best possible 2026 World Cup.”
While efforts behind the scenes will continue for almost eight years, the most visible issue is the selection of 16 venues from 23 metro areas. In consultation with the North American group, FIFA is aiming to make those decisions by December 2020.
Aside from the clear front-runners, such as New York, Los Angeles and Mexico City, FIFA will take geography into account. The goal is to minimize travel for the 16 three-team groups.
The United States will have between 10 and 12 venues, while Mexico and Canada will get two or three apiece.
FIFA could ask North American organizers to consider other cities, such as Chicago and Vancouver, which withdrew this year after souring on FIFA’s contractual requirements.
Said Cordeiro: “On one hand, anything is possible. On the other hand, is it [most] fair to the 23 that have been through the process? I never say never. At the end of the day, it’s FIFA’s tournament. They can change their minds on anything, but I’d like to think there would be respect for the 23 who have jumped through the hoops.”
FIFA President Gianni Infantino might visit the White House in the next year to discuss the buildup to the tournament, Cordeiro said. The bid’s success had hinged in part on assurances from the federal government regarding security needs and access to visas for thousands of fans from around the world.
Additionally, Cordeiro said North American organizers would recommend something similar to the Fan ID program used this summer in Russia. It’s essentially a preapproved security clearance at stadiums for ticket buyers.
With some fans traveling between three nations in 2026, Cordeiro said he hopes such a program would allow multiple entries into a country.
Addressing whether FIFA will grant automatic bids to all three host teams, Cordeiro said: “They want to grow the game. For them to have a successful tournament in North America, you can’t favor one out of three or two out of three. You’ve got to have all three or none. And you’re not going to have none because you are at the risk of one or two not qualifying. I think logic will prevail.”
Even with all three automatically qualified, the Concacaf region still would receive at least three additional slots in the expanded field.
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