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Sargent: Europe move a dream come true

Werder Bremen
Read
 By PA Sport

Trump administration only potential danger for World Cup bid - Stillitano

ICC organizer Charlie Stillitano suggests Morocco's late 2026 World Cup bid is no match for the North American joint bid.
ESPN's Sam Borden chats with U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati about the U.S.-led 2026 World Cup bid.

International Champions Cup organizer Charlie Stillitano believes only a "crazy action" by President Donald Trump's administration could prevent the United States from winning the right to stage the 2026 World Cup.

The U.S. has made a joint bid with neighbors Canada and Mexico for the expanded 48-team tournament, with U.S. venues getting 60 of the 80 games and every match from the quarterfinals onward.

Stillitano, the executive chairman of Relevant Sports, which organizes the ICC summer club tournament in the U.S., said the American bid will be the firm favorite to be awarded the World Cup next June, though he still sees governmental uncertainty as a potential weakness.

Speaking at Soccerex's Global Convention in England on Monday, Stillitano said: "Every day I wake up and I see our president has made a new tweet.

"The only thing that could possibly derail [the bid] is some crazy action on the part of our government, but I can't even imagine that.

"It's ours to lose. I can't imagine we won't have the World Cup."

U.S. Soccer Federation chief Sunil Gulati said in May that Trump was "fully supportive" of the joint bid, despite the president's aims to impose travel restrictions with several countries and build a wall on the Mexico border.

Charlie Stillitano says the 2026 World Cup in the U.S. could be 'by far the most profitable.'

Stillitano's Relevent Sports, bankrolled by Miami Dolphins' billionaire owner Stephen Ross, has turned the ICC into a profitable destination for top European clubs, who can play summer friendlies in front of massive crowds at NFL stadiums.

And he said Gulati believes hosting the U.S. could likewise bring in a lot of money.

"I saw Sunil Gulati and he was almost gleeful in talking about how this was going to be by far the most profitable World Cup," Stillitano said. "All the stadia are done already, all the highways are done, the train stations are done. The hotels are there in the cities.

"I talked to contacts within FIFA, UEFA, CONCACAF and CONMEBOL and I think it's almost a given that it's going to be in the U.S. I'd be shocked if they lost.''

As the venue director for Giants Stadium during the 1994 World Cup, Stillitano has been a senior figure in U.S. soccer for over 20 years, although he is best known in England for his meeting with five top Premier League clubs last summer when they discussed a restructured Champions League.

The 57-year-old appears to be slightly embarrassed about that meeting now, telling the Soccerex audience that, in his role as boss of a major preseason tournament, he met with lots of leading European clubs last year and was perhaps used as a "stalking horse" by some to get more money from their domestic leagues and UEFA.

Stillitano said his company is now focused on growing the International Champions Cup format and would love to be involved in staging a regular-season fixture for one of Europe's major football leagues in the U.S.

With clubs like Barcelona, Chelsea and Manchester United now apparently convinced of the desirability of high-profile summer tournaments in Asia or North America, Stillitano told reporters the next logical step is to hold a competitive game overseas -- a concept Ross has embraced with the Dolphins and the NFL's International Series in London.

He denied, however, that Relevent was involved in any talks about such a move and said it is simply something the company believes it could help deliver if and when a European league was ready to consider it.

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