Players compete in the opening match of the FIFA World Cup between Russia and Saudi Arabia in Moscow on June 14. (Credit: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg)

While the 2018 World Cup got underway Thursday in Russia with the host country celebrating a 5-0 victory over Saudi Arabia, lawyers at Latham & Watkins can cheer the U.S. Soccer Federation’s successful bid to bring the event to North America in 2026.

FIFA, the worldwide governing body for the sport, on Wednesday awarded the hosting rights to the joint bid of the U.S., Mexico and Canada. The USSF subsequently confirmed that Latham, its long-standing counsel, partnered with the organization on the bid.

Latham did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Latham previously partnered with the USSF on a failed bid to host the 2022 World Cup. The country made it to the final round of voting in 2010, but the 22 executive committee members voted to send the games to Qatar.

For the first time in history, all of FIFA’s member associations were given the opportunity to vote on the host, and the joint North America bid beat out Morocco in a final vote of 134 to 65.

The 2026 event will be the largest World Cup in history, featuring 48 teams, rather than the usual 32. FIFA will make the final selection of host cities from the 23 candidates proposed in the joint bid.

In a press release weeks before the 2010 vote, the USSF noted that Latham provided guidance on general corporate, tax, government affairs, intellectual property and other issues. The federation also said the firm had been involved in the sport for over two decades.

The USSF’s 2015-16 federal tax filing shows that it paid more than $3.2 million to the firm for legal services in that period. The organization was once helmed by former Latham partner Alan Rothenberg, who also helped create Major League Soccer in the mid-1990s.

The firm is currently representing the organization in a federal antitrust lawsuit filed by the North American Soccer League, which alleges the organization has created a regulatory competitive structure that unfairly advantages MLS while hindering the NASL.