United States Soccer Federation (USSF) president Sunil Gulati has said the "perceptions of America" are negatively impacting the country's joint bid to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
Speaking at a public event hosted by former U.S. international Alexi Lalas, Gulati voiced his belief that circumstances outside football and other external events have influenced the host bid, per ESPN.com's Jeff Carlisle:
"This is not only about our stadiums and our hotels and all that.
"It's about perceptions of America, and it's a difficult time in the world. So there's only certain things we can control. We can't control what happens at the 38th parallel in Korea, we can't control what happens with embassies in Tel Aviv, and we can't control what happens with climate change accords.
"We do the best we can. We have the support of Washington."
The United States is still reeling from its failure to qualify for this year's World Cup and has launched a joint bid with Canada and Mexico to host the event. Carlisle describes the group as the "heavy favourite" to triumph over the only other bidder, Morocco.
The report went on to mention that, unlike previous World Cups where FIFA's executive council decided the host, the 2026 World Cup bid will be polled among the organisation's entire voting membership.
FourFourTwo's Charles Boehm provided further comment from Gulati's talk:
Gulati, whose reign as USSF president will end on February 10, continued: "We have to go out and convince what eventually will be 104 voters to vote for us. We would like to get a few extra to not make it a one-vote swing. But this won't be easy. I'm spending 90 percent of waking hours on [the bid] at this point."
Despite stepping down as USSF president, he will remain chairman of the United Bid Committee Board of Directors.
Gulati also delved into topics such as representation at the national-team level, suggesting it to be an area in which the United States can look to improve, per football writer Kevin McCauley:
Regarding external matters affecting the country's hosting rights, one would presume that's part of what affects opinion relating to any country, whether it be good or bad press.
In the end, the respective members will vote on which applicant they feel meets the criteria to host a World Cup, and Gulati can only hope his nation has the necessary facilities to make it happen.