US could challenge for 2026 World Cup – Arena

arenaLOS ANGELES: United States coach Bruce Arena believes the American national team would be genuine challengers for the 2026 World Cup if the country makes a successful bid to host the tournament.

The United States, Canada and Mexico on Monday announced a joint bid to stage the 2026 finals, with the bulk of the tournament’s 80 games to be held at venues in the US.

Arena told US media outlets on a conference call Thursday that he believed by the time the tournament was staged, the hosts would be serious contenders for the sport’s biggest prize.

“In 1994, the US was looked at as this emerging frontier in the game and FIFA wanted to bring the US into the world’s game,” Arena said, referring to the 1994 World Cup held in the United States.

“In 2026, we’re going to be fully emerged into the game and a big player. I think 2026 will be the time where we are going to start talking about winning the World Cup. It wasn’t going to be in 1994. It wasn’t going to be in 2010. But 2026 could be our time.”

Arena is the most successful US coach in history, guiding the Americans to the quarter-finals of the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea.

The US coach pointed to the steady growth of Major League Soccer and emergence of young players such as Borussia Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic who are enjoying success in European leagues.

“We’re one of the host countries, which is an advantage, and think about where we are going to be in nine more years,” Arena said.

“Think about where we were in 1994, ’98, 2000, keep going. And think about where we will be with even nine more years in our league, nine more years of players developing around the world and then playing the World Cup in our country.

“I think we’re going to be positioned to be a big player by 2026.”

Arena meanwhile said US officials had been in contact with teenage Dortmund star Pulisic, who had been on the team bus that was targeted in a bomb attack on Tuesday.

“We’ve had contact with him. I actually left him a message today. We’ve had contact with him through texts during the incident, after the incident. He’s okay,” Arena said.