Hope Solo: FIFA should not vote U.S. as host of 2026 World Cup
Hope Solo says she wants the United States-led North American bid to lose FIFA's vote to host the 2026 World Cup.
"I can't say it should be awarded to Morocco," the former U.S. women's national team goalkeeper told The Associated Press. "But I don't think it should go to the United States, and that's hard to say."
The United bid of the U.S., Canada and Mexico could be selected at host in FIFA's vote next Wednesday, but now faces criticism from one of U.S. Soccer's most famous players.
The bid's leadership was exasperated when informed Solo was undermining their efforts, according to the AP, though the group also dismissed her criticism while declining to go on the record in detail.
Up to 207 soccer federations will vote in Moscow on whether North America or Morocco should host the 2026 World Cup, or if the bidding should be reopened by choosing "none of the above."
"Hopefully FIFA can stand up and step in and say, 'If we're going to reward you, let's look at everything and point out where you can fix certain things,'" Solo said.
Solo's objection is not an isolated eruption against U.S. Soccer and comes after she was dismissed from the national team over an outburst against the opposition at the 2016 Olympics and a series of off-the-field controversies.
In an attempt to take control of the organization that ostracized her, Solo ran for the U.S. Soccer Federation presidency in February, but garnered only 1.4 percent of the vote.
In an interview with CNN, Solo listed a number of reasons why the U.S. should not be awarded the tournament and said it should go to a "more deserving" country.
"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," Solo said. "They just ignore everybody.
"I do have a problem with an organization like that being awarded something so big. I would like to think there's another country out there who is more deserving than the United States."
Among her issues with the U.S. being awarded the vote, Solo wants to secure equal pay and equal treatment for the U.S. women's team, and force Major League Soccer to open up its closed competition.
Her objections provide a counterpoint to the loyal championing of the American World Cup bid by David Beckham in a video released by MLS. The former England captain is launching an MLS team in Miami after securing a cut-price deal for an expansion franchise as part of his contract to play for the LA Galaxy a decade ago.
"That is not helping the sport in America," Solo told the AP. "I want to see promotion-relegation in the NASL and the MLS. Right now it's true, you have rich ownership groups owning MLS teams and they're only getting richer and they're alienating everybody else.
"A new ownership group can't just come in and purchase a team even though they have the financial security, even though they have the commitment. It's controlled by those single individuals at Soccer United Marketing, MLS in particular, [commissioner] Don Garber."
FIFA's statutes enshrine the principle of a system of promotion and relegation in domestic competitions to ensure participation "shall depend principally on sporting merit." The regulations then say that qualification can be subject to other criteria including "financial considerations."
MLS stridently defended itself against Solo's criticism, saying team owners have invested more than $3 billion in stadium and training facilities to grow the sport because it's a closed league.
"The structure that we have has given owners certainty to make that type of investment," MLS president and deputy commissioner Mark Abbott told the AP. "Had we had a system of promotion and relegation it would not have been possible to generate that level of investment from owners, local communities or private banks that help to fund some of these facilities."
Solo also questioned Garber's role overseeing MLS and Soccer United Marketing, which is the exclusive marketing partner of U.S. Soccer, while also sitting on the USSF board.
"There are too many conflicts of interest that need to be addressed immediately," Solo said.
Garber represents MLS on the U.S. Soccer board but recuses himself from discussions about the "sanctioning of other professional leagues in the U.S.," Abbott responded on behalf of the commissioner.
Turning on the USSF, Solo said the organization lacks integrity and highlights the absence of an independent ethics committee, which FIFA has.
She also filed a claim with the U.S. Olympic Committee, saying the USSF violates a law that offers protections for athletes, alleging improper conditions for soccer players.
"If you're an Olympic sport, your national governing body, every NGB has an obligation to give resources and funds to all of its members, not just professional and amateur players or Paralympic team women's teams or youth teams," Solo said. "But what U.S. Soccer does is they give the money directly to the pro teams. So it's in violation of the Ted Stevens Act and I have a hearing in a couple weeks in front of the Olympic Committee.
"I also met with Congress members recently. I went to Capitol Hill, met with Republicans and Democrats, and there's a lot of interest to make sure that U.S. Soccer is an organization that actually is run transparently, has integrity and is an open and honest national governing body."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.