Chicago is being third or fourth choice among the favorites for the 2016 Olympics, trailing Madrid, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro.
"It's not a criticism, it's a reality," Ueberroth said after meeting with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. "There's no criticism of Chicago 2016. I'm not saying they're doing anything wrong. I'm telling you they're in third or fourth place."
Baku, Azerbaijan; Doha, Qatar; and Prague, Czech Republic also are bidding for the Summer Olympics. The International Olympic Committee will choose the host city Oct. 2, 2009, at its session in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Chicago was thought to be the early favorite in the 2016 race, because the United States hasn't hosted a Summer Olympics since Atlanta in 1996. Although there's no official policy of rotating the games, Asia (Beijing) and Europe (London) will have just hosted Summer Olympics.
Chicago also has a solid bid, with venues located in a compact area downtown, many on picturesque Lake Michigan.
But all the cities will present strong bids, Ueberroth said. Chicago needs to sell itself to the 100-plus IOC members, and it needs to be doing it now.
Madrid has a head start because it bid for the 2012 Games, finishing ahead of London in an early round of voting. Rio hosted a successful Pan American Games this summer, with about half of the IOC voters visiting during the two-week event.
Tokyo has a strong ally in Chiharu Igaya, a longtime IOC member who led the evaluation committee for the 2014 Winter Olympics bids.
"Politicking doesn't have, in my view, the right connotations," Ueberroth said. "You have to care about and develop real friendships globally if you're going to be successful in the Olympic movement.
"The USOC, for a number of years, ignored that. The USOC was not a good partner," Ueberroth said. "We've made improvements. But we've got a lot more improvements to make."
Chicago also needs to make a good impression later this month, when it hosts the world boxing championships. At least 20 IOC members are expected to attend the two-week event, and many more will get a look at Chicago as an Olympic city through the eyes of their country's athletes.
"It's going to be the first place that Chicago gets a real international focus," Ueberroth said. "Say you have a voter in a country who is a devoted sports person and doesn't come here. But their boxing team comes back and says, 'We've never been treated better.' ... They say, 'Wow."'