Robert Kraft: “I am honored to be serving in this role and eager to do everything in my power to bring the FIFA World Cup back to North America to share the competition with all the deserving fans in the United States, Canada and Mexico.” (Photo courtesy of U.S. Soccer)
CHICAGO — National Football League and Major League Soccer owner Robert Kraft has been named the honorary chairman of the board for the United Bid Committee of Canada, Mexico and the United States, it was announced Wednesday.
The commitee will oversee the bidding process to bring the 2026 FIFA World Cup to North America.
Kraft has been an important figure in American soccer dating back to the early 1990s when he secured Foxboro Stadium as one of the nine host venues for the 1994 World Cup. The success of that World Cup paved the way for the inception of Major League Soccer. On June 6, 1995, the Kraft family became the founding Investor/Operator of the New England Revolution, one of the league’s 10 charter clubs for its inaugural season in 1996.
“Robert Kraft has been one of the most influential figures in modern professional sports in the United States,” U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said in a statement. “He is a leader who saw the potential of soccer in America early on and has been heavily invested in the success and growth of the game over the last three decades. Robert will be a great asset to our effort to bring the 2026 FIFA World Cup™ to North America.”
In a press release, Kraft said he was looking forward to the U.S., Mexico and Canada hosting the World Cup.
“My first exposure to world class soccer and the unique power of the FIFA World Cup came in 1994 when we hosted six games at Foxboro Stadium. The intensity of the matches, the truly exceptional athleticism of the competitors, the pageantry and energy of the crowds all created an environment unlike anything else in sport,” he said. “Most importantly, the month-long event epitomized all that is great about athletic competition. People from all nationalities and backgrounds gathered together in communal celebrations of the international competition. The FIFA World Cup’s ability to build bridges and bring people together is unlike any other medium. By 2026, more than 30 years will have passed since we hosted the FIFA World Cup and its return to North America is long overdue. I am honored to be serving in this role and eager to do everything in my power to bring the FIFA World Cup back to North America to share the competition with all the deserving fans in the United States, Canada and Mexico.”
The other confirmed members of the board of directors include Gulati (chairman), Steven Reed (Canada), Peter Montopoli (Canada), Decio De Maria (Mexico), Guillermo Cantu (Mexico), Carlos Cordeiro (USA), Donna Shalala (USA), Dan Flynn (USA), Don Garber (USA) and Victor Montagliani (CONCACAF).
The United Bid Committee kicked off its efforts last week with the formal launch of the committee and the commencement of an outreach program to more than 40 cities, under an executive leadership team that includes executive director John Kristick, managing director of technical operations Jim Brown, Montopoli, who is the Canada Soccer general secretary, and Mexico bid director Yon De Luisa, who is a Televisa vice president.
The deadline for the submission of the formal bid to FIFA is March 16, 2018.