MOSCOW -- For months, the leaders of the United States-led North American bid for the 2026 World Cup have been doing everything they can to convince the 200-plus global soccer federations to vote for them instead at Wednesday's FIFA Congress.
"We've been working basically nonstop," U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro said here on Sunday night. "But there are some things out of our control, too."
At the top of that uncontrollable list? Politics. Because while Cordeiro reiterated on Sunday that no federation has questioned him directly about the Trump administration or its policies, he conceded that it is impossible to know how the ever-charged atmosphere around President Trump will affect the voters and the countries they represent.
In many ways, it is the only significant wild card in this race.
"We don't control a lot of things, including what's happening in Singapore," Cordeiro said, referring to President Trump's scheduled meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un this week. "Geopolitics is outside our terrain. And there's always risk."
Because Wednesday's vote is an open ballot, there has always been the concern that how a country feels politically about the United States (or Canada or Mexico or Morocco) could affect how that country's federation president chooses to vote.
And, with President Trump in the news for any number of controversies -- including North Korea discussions, intense interactions with G7 countries and even a back-and-forth with the Canadian prime minister -- politics provides a never-ending stream of news, much of it potentially awkward for the so-called United Bid.
This week's uncertainty comes after Trump in May questioned why the U.S. should support other countries who might lobby against the North American bid. Cordeiro then had to say Trump's comment was not a threat.
The irony, Cordeiro said, is that the Trump administration has provided "amazing" support to the bid, offering ironclad guarantees about visas, infrastructure and other details that were key to the United Bid receiving such dominant marks in FIFA's technical evaluation of the two bids.
On Monday, Cordeiro and other bid leaders will make a final pitch to each of FIFA's confederations. Then there will be a bit more hand-shaking and late-night lobbying before Wednesday's decision, where -- assuming all eligible nations cast a vote -- the magic number for victory is 104 votes.
After several months of campaigning (the United Bid estimated it has met with 150 federations in person), Cordeiro struck a confident tone -- "We can't think about losing" -- but is also leery of assuming anything. After all, it was just eight years ago that the United States thought it was going to win the hosting bid for the 2022 World Cup, only to lose to Qatar in a decision that has since led to multiple corruption investigations.
"I feel we have a path to victory," Cordeiro said, adding that he believes there will be "surprises" when the ballots are made public and everyone can see how widespread the United Bid's support runs.
Several small-but-important details about the ballot itself were handled on Sunday, including FIFA's ratification of both bids as well as whether four American protectorates -- American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico -- will cast ballots or have to abstain as the official bidders do. According to Cordeiro, it appears that as each of those countries has an independent soccer federation, all will be able to cast a vote.
There was also a ceremony to determine the speaking order when the bids address the Congress on Wednesday. After a drawing of lots, the United Bid will go first.