L.A. City Council has contradicting plans on bid for 2026 World Cup

L.A. City Council has contradicting plans on bid for 2026 World Cup
L.A. City Council President Herb Wesson at a city hearing on Dec. 6, 2017. Wesson's office said Thursday that the city would not bid on the 2026 World Cup. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles' bid to be one of the hosts for the 2026 World Cup is in doubt as officials on Thursday gave contradicting statements about whether the city would pursue a piece of the international event.

An aide to Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson said the city would not make a bid because of concerns about the financial liability it would have in staging events. "The council president didn't feel that the contract put forth by FIFA would make sound financial sense for the city," spokeswoman Vanessa Rodriguez said.


Wesson's decision was made as Los Angeles officials faced a Monday deadline to submit a host city agreement to the United Bid Committee, representing a three-nation group cooperatively seeking to host the World Cup in North America. FIFA is the sport's international governing body.

But later Thursday, Mayor Eric Garcetti said that he would ask the United Bid Committee to extend its bid process so the host city contract could continue to be reviewed and discussed. The mayor said the city needed to host the World Cup on "responsible terms."

Los Angeles was among 25 U.S. cities selected as possible host sites for the World Cup, and it was expected to receive strong consideration as home to the championship game. Final applications to host the World Cup are due in March, and FIFA will pick the winner in June.

The soccer federations of the U.S., Mexico and Canada joined forces to present a united bid, the first time a three-nation bid has been considered by FIFA. Morocco, which has submitted its own bid, is the only competition.

The World Cup field for 2026 will be a record 48 teams. Sixty of the 80 games are expected to be played at cities around the U.S. if the United Bid wins.

A city report released Thursday said FIFA rejected amendments to the host city contract proposed by the Los Angeles Convention and Tourism Board, which was helping lead L.A.'s bid. Among the changes sought by the board were alterations to "manage risk and liability that may be associated with the bid and hosting requirements."

L.A.'s bid was expected to include facilities located in Inglewood and Pasadena, according to the city report.

Chief Legislative Analyst Sharon Tso, who worked on the report, said the host city contract contained "onerous" stipulations, including one that potentially required Los Angeles to provide police escorts, public transportation, parking and other city services at events at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. She also said that the contract allowed FIFA to change event requirements at any time and that there were no indemnification provisions in the contract that would protect the city.

According to a study released Thursday by U.S. Soccer, host cities could receive an economic boost of $90 million to $480 million after costs, depending on the number of events in the area. Los Angeles was thought to be a strong candidate to become a "hub" city — a site of multiple games, cultural elements and possibly training camps.

Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino said Thursday that the city should be hosting World Cup games, including the tournament's final.

"I'm disappointed that L.A. is not included in the bid and that we will miss out on the tremendous economic benefits, tax revenue and international promotion the World Cup would bring," Buscaino said.

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