Stillitano Rocks Soccerex in Manchester

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 04:  Charlie Stillitano (R), Relevent Sports Co-Founder and Chairman talks with Andrew Croker, Hawk-Eye and Perform Consultant during day 1 of the Soccerex Global Convention at Manchester Central Convention Complex on September 4, 2017 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images for Soccerex)

global_conventionCharlie Stillitano, the executive chairman of Relevent Sports and arguably one of the most powerful figures in world soccer, has been holding court in Manchester, England, as one of the featured speakers at the SoccerEx convention.

The man who has engineered the success of the International Champions Cup, a preseason tournament in the United States for a collection of the top clubs in the world, drew attention to his comments about the prospects of the U.S. playing a major role in hosting the 2026 World Cup and in his comments about his company being eager to play a role in hosting Premier League regular-season games in the U.S.

The joint World Cup bid among the U.S., Canada and Mexico, in which the U.S. would host 60 of the 80 games of the expanded tournament, could only fail because of “crazy action” by President Donald J. Trump.

“Every day I wake up and I see our president has made a new tweet,” Stillitano, 57, said at the convention on Monday. “The only thing that could possibly derail [the bid] is some crazy action on the part of our government, but I can’t even imagine that.

“It’s ours to lose. I can’t imagine we won’t have the World Cup. I saw [U.S. Soccer Federation president] Sunil Gulati and he was almost gleeful in talking about how this was going to be by far the most profitable World Cup. All the stadia are done already, all the highways are done, the train stations are done. The hotels are there in the cities. I talked to contacts within FIFA, UEFA, CONCACAF and CONMEBOL and I think it’s almost a given that it’s going to be in the U.S. I’d be shocked if they lost.”

The only other bid to host the tournament has been submitted by Morocco. At this point, it is a foregone conclusion that the three CONCACAF nations will host in 2026.

Relevent Sports, which is backed by Stephen Ross, the real-estate developer heavily involved in the Hudson Yards project on Manhattan’s West Side and who also owns the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, is also interested in hosting regular-season games from the Premier League in the U.S., Stillitano said. He pointed to Americans who own NFL teams and Premier League clubs (the Glazer family-Manchester United/Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Stan Kroenke-Arsenal/Los Angeles Rams) and the continued success of NFL teams playing games in Britain. In addition, Shahid Khan owns Fulham and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“When they see NFL teams play [in England], they think maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea for our team to play somewhere else, to bring the gospel there,” Stillitano said. “We have our hand up. We’d love to host these games — but it’s up to the leagues and confederations.”

Nearly 10 years ago, the Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore floated the idea of the Premier League playing a so-called 39th game outside Britain. The proposal, however, met with skepticism then and little has changed.

“Our owner refers to the Glazers and Stan Kroenke as partners,” Stillitano said. “The NFL mentality is one of true partnership. They’ve certainly talked among themselves about things like this happening. People get excited when they see the real thing live.

“Now, there are the league rules, there are regulations — so I could never speak for the Glazers or Stan Kroenke — I’m just saying, from our perspective, we would love to have regular season games.”