(WFI) The United States, Canada and Mexico are teaming up in a bid to host the 2026 World Cup.
The official announcement came on Monday at a media event in New York, with the heads of all three federations signing a Memorandum of Understanding.
Sunil Gulati, United States Soccer Federation president and FIFA Council member, revealed that the initial plan calls for the United States to host 60 of the 80 scheduled matches. Canada and Mexico would each host 10. All matches from the quarterfinals forward would be held in the USA. But Gulati emphasized that the final decisions on venues rested with FIFA.
Though FIFA will not be making a decision on the host for the 2026 World Cup until May of 2020, there are several factors that point to a successful outcome for the joint bid.
CONCACAF, the federation for football in North and Central America and the Caribbean, has not hosted a World Cup since the United States had the honors in 1994. Since then, every continent except Australia (which is a member of the Asian Football Confederation) has hosted at least one World Cup.
FIFA has also decided that Europe and Asia are not allowed to bid for 2026, since Russia is hosting in 2018 and Qatar in 2022. That leaves Africa and South America as the only possible challengers to a CONCACAF bid. So far, neither continent has shown any serious interest in putting forth a bid.
A joint bid by the USA, Canada and Mexico would also be able to handle the first edition of FIFA’s expanding tournament, which goes from 32 to 48 teams in 2026.
Both the USA and Mexico have enough stadiums to host the tournament as a solo act while Canada also has a number of stadiums that were used for the 2015 Women’s World Cup. It should be noted that unlike the Women’s World Cup, FIFA has required that natural grass be installed over the artificial pitches for all previous men’s World Cups.
Victor Montagliani, the CONCACAF President and President of the Canadian Soccer Association, says that “we’ll respond accordingly” if FIFA were to require grass pitches for the Canadian venues.
It all adds up to a pretty formidable bid for CONCACAF, though there are still some drawbacks.
The biggest one could be that a bid among three countries has never been done before. Japan and South Korea did co-host the 2002 World Cup but FIFA has steered away from joint bids since then. The two Asian countries were historical adversaries and issues including which country’s name would be first on the official name of the tourney and which would host the final led to months of arguing. In the end, FIFA became involved and an agreement was reached where “Korea/Japan” was used for the name, Japan was awarded the final and South Korea hosted the opening match.
Potential political issues could make things more difficult for the CONCACAF bid. It’s no stretch to believe that planning and teamwork will be a necessity with three countries in the mix.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall between his country and Mexico was seen as a potential obstacle in terms of cooperation between the two countries in hosting the 2026 World Cup. Travel bans being pushed by the Trump Administration could also potentially create problems.
But Gulati downplayed those concerns, saying that the bid has “the full support of the United States government” and that Trump himself is pleased that Mexico is a part of the plan.
FIFA’s decision on 2026 is still more than three years away but as of now, it is clear that a joint bid by the USA, Canada, and Mexico is looking very likely.
By INSIDER Gerard Farek
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