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Times Record News (Wichita Falls, Texas)
The 2026 World Cup is still eight years away, and one must wonder if that's enough time for us to get our stuff together here in North America.
Soccer's governing body, FIFA, chose the United Bid — a partnership between the United States, Mexico, and Canada — as the hosts for what's scheduled to be a 48-team premier showcase for the world's most played and most popular sport.
Unfortunately, this good news comes on the heels of what can only be described as a disastrous week for foreign relations between the U.S. and Canada particularly.
Fighting with our southern neighbors over a border wall likely never to be built in the way most people imagine and our northern neighbors over what turns out to be a trade surplus in our favor appear to complicate the issue politically, for now.
But the opportunity is just too big for one person or one group of people to ruin it for everyone. For those who play the sport, watch the sport, and hope for its further expansion — particularly here in the U.S. — the 2026 World Cup is a gift.
Personally, I'm old enough to remember Brazilian soccer legend Pele being carried off the field at Giants Stadium in 1975 waving U.S. and Brazilian flags after retiring from the game and igniting its popularity here.
My high school back in Tennessee didn't have a school or even a club team back then as the state's soccer association was still in its infancy, having only been founded a year after Pele left the field for the final time as an active player.
But my alma mater has both a boys' and girls' team now.
In fact, as of the 2017 season, over 388,000 girls and 450,000 boys played high school soccer in the U.S. with those totals on a steady uptick since the 2009-10 season. And with the Metroplex in the running to be one of the World Cup sites, people should be more excited about the game itself and not distracted by divisive and frequently self-serving political maneuvers.
However, at our current pace and level of communication with each other right now, eight years should just be barely enough time for us to rediscover international civility and avoid screwing up a golden opportunity with the whole world watching.
Stephen C. Smith Sr. can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or at www.twitter.com/coachsmithworld
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