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Baltimore and Washington could merge bids to host 2026 FIFA World Cup – The Denver Post

Baltimore and Washington could come close to combining their proposals to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

Terry Hasseltine, executive director of the Maryland Sports Commission, which oversees Baltimore’s campaign, said US Soccer, the national organization, has asked the two cities to start conversations about what a “reimagined” joint bid would look like. . This consolidated plan could then be presented to FIFA, the governing body of international football which will determine which venues will host the coveted matches.

“There was an opening,” he said Wednesday afternoon. “We’re going to start having discussions about what that might look like because it needs to be done in a relatively short timeframe. FIFA is supposed to announce a decision sometime in early to mid-May. Both parties have been independent throughout this process, and both have significant merits. There is obviously the national capital, which is a very important piece of the American puzzle. We have a world class stadium [M&T Bank Stadium] which has undergone extensive renovations over the past 10 years or so to make it one of the best stadiums in the NFL and beyond.

Hasseltine said he informed the Maryland Stadium Authority’s board of directors at a meeting on Tuesday of a possible merger of applications from two of the 17 potential host cities in the United States. He had said earlier that US Soccer or FIFA, international football’s governing body, should mandate a consolidated bid.

The United States has teamed up with Canada and Mexico in an attempt to become the first three-nation partnership to host a World Cup. Besides Baltimore and Washington, other US cities being considered are Los Angeles, Houston, Philadelphia and the San Francisco Bay Area. FIFA could make an announcement on the 16 host cities of the three countries from a list of 23 around May 15.

EventsDC, which is leading the Washington effort, released a statement that sheds little light on a possible merger with Baltimore.

“We are considering various options that will ultimately create a path forward for Washington, DC to host and support the 2026 FIFA World Cup,” the statement read. “Based on this process, the DC2026 team has convincingly demonstrated why DC should be an important part of the 2026 FIFA World Cup experience.”

Hasseltine said the scope of the World Cup is so big that all 17 potential host cities could get a slice of it, whether it’s a base camp for a national team, a training site or a Fan Fest event.

“But we all know the measuring stick is where the games will be played in 2026 and that’s what we’re all fighting for right now – to make sure our buildings will host the World Cup games. , because that’s the real essence of why all of us got into it,” he said. “We want to see games played in our backyard.”

Hasseltine said officials in both cities have started checking calendars. He said his preference would be to coordinate a conference call this week and an in-person meeting next week.

Hasseltine said a deadline of early to mid-May was enough to work on a combined plan.

“There will be fine details that we will have to work on after the fact, but we will have to figure out where we are going to anchor the main components,” he said. “We need to determine which stadium will host the matches, and we also know there will be team training camps. There are going to be certain accommodation needs that need to be taken care of. There will be logistics of transport which will probably have to be tweaked a bit after the fact. And then there will be a combination of a Fan Fest which we will have to organize throughout the World Cup. Is it a common good? Do we use M&T? Have any us a little in Baltimore with the mega Fan Fest in DC or vice versa?

Hasseltine said he did not view US Soccer’s request as an obstacle to Baltimore’s pursuit of World Cup hosting.

“I actually think it’s the opposite,” he said. “In my humble opinion, I think this reinforces the opportunity for the United States Capital Region to be included in the 10 cities that they will be announcing.”

This development follows a study that questioned the strengths of the two cities’ independent proposals. A report by 42Floors, a subsidiary of California-based real estate data firm Yardi, ranked Baltimore No. 16 and Washington No. 17 in cities vying to host the World Cup.

Out of a total of 100 points, Baltimore scored 23.55, ranking last in hotel rooms and a distant second in other categories such as broadcasting and public transportation. The city also scored high in airports.

In a text sent Wednesday afternoon, Hasseltine wrote that the study “carries no weight because it was carried out in 2017 and did not take into account any of the work that has been done to date on the inheritance. , human and labor rights and the site visit We listen to the leaders of US Soccer and FIFA to find out where we are with the process, not the referenced report.

When the study was published, Hasseltine said in a statement that the report relied on outdated figures. To prove his point, he said the 9,241 hotel rooms listed in the study did not include rooms near the airport and in surrounding counties, which totaled more than 40,000.

Hasseltine also pointed out that the 15.8-mile distance between the training sites and the team hotel cited in the report is the farthest distance possible, insisting that the average distance is less than 11 miles. miles. And he noted that M&T Bank Stadium had room for 71,000 fans, not 65,000.

Washington compiled 21.58 points for a low score at airports and training facilities. The city scored high in public transportation.

In January, The Washington Post reported that concerns about FedEx Field’s ability in Landover to host the World Cup had emerged. According to one plan, M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Ravens, would serve as the main site for the games, and FedEx Field, home of the Washington Commanders, would be the venue for other events.

Hasseltine said after this report that a combined proposal would accentuate the strengths of both cities.

“The fact that we could merge the two synergies would give FIFA and US Soccer a much larger portfolio to play with,” he said. “So there are advantages to merging the two. But that depends on American football and FIFA. It’s not a Baltimore or DC decision. Whatever is in the best interest for the United States to host the World Cup which includes Baltimore or Washington or Baltimore and Washington, it depends on American football and FIFA.

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