As multiple countries try to outbid each other to host the World Cup every four years, a group of countries is working together to bring the most-watched sporting event in the world back to North America.
On Monday afternoon, the soccer federations for Canada, Mexico and the United States held an announcement at One World Observatory in New York City to make public a joint bid between the three countries to host the 2026 World Cup.
The host of the 2026 World Cup cannot come from UEFA or AFC countries, ruling out a European or Asian bid. By teaming up, Canada, Mexico, and the United States will only need to compete with CAF bids from countries in Africa, CONMEBOL bids from countries in South America, and OFC bids from countries in Oceania. Through FIFA’s continental rotation system, the 2026 host is expected to come from CONCACAF which has not hosted the World Cup since the United States had the honor in 1994.
The three North American countries will face their stiffest competition from Colombia which has expressed interest in making a bid since 2010. The country received praise from Blatter in 2011 who stated, “Colombia is ready for a World Cup.” The country was previously chosen to host the tournament for the first time in 1986, but lost its bid to Mexico due to financial problems.
The vote will be the first under FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who was elected in February to head the organization. Infantino has proposed multiple chances to the World Cup, including expansion of the tournament to allow for more countries to qualify. The president has also backed a joint Argentina-Uruguay bid for the 2030 World Cup, which would be the tournament’s 100th anniversary.
It remains unclear how Canada, Mexico and the United States will split up the locations for hosting the games, as well as where the more important and profitable games in the later stages of the tournament will take place. For the 2014 World Cup, Brazil had a total of 12 stadiums used as sites for games. Following this pattern would mean each country would have four locations for games, though that will likely change with the field expanding from 32 to 48 countries for 2026.
Following the end of a controversial reign over FIFA by Sepp Blatter, the organization announced last May a new four-phase process for World Cup bidding. The first consists of a strategy and consultation phase which will end next month. Following this, an enhanced phase for bid preparation will take place from this June until December 2018. The third phase, lasting from January 2019 through February 2020 will be a bid evaluation. In May 2020, FIFA will make its final decision on the host country(s). Previously, the voting power was wielded by an executive ruling committee of around two dozen countries. However, after a tainted vote saw Russia and Qatar earn hosting rights for the next two World Cups, the power has been returned to FIFA’s 211-member Congress after a nearly four-decade long gap in voting rights.
Another hurdle the bid may face is the political tension between the United States and Mexico. Just months removed from the issuing of President Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban on those seeking to enter the United States from predominantly Muslim countries, Trump has continued to be involved in a longstanding feud over funding the construction of a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. Last month, Infantino stated, “Any team, including the supporters and officials…who qualify for a World Cup need to have access to the country, otherwise there is no World Cup.”
United States Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati assured those concerned by saying,
“We have full support of the United States government in this project. The President of the United States is fully supportive and encouraged us to have this joint bid. He is especially pleased that Mexico is part of this bid…We looked at bidding alone and decided in the end we wanted to bid with our partners in North America, and we have a strong encouragement from President Trump to that very end.
It is worth noting that because of U.S. Presidential term limits, President Trump will not be the current president by the time the 2026 World Cup takes place.
The only other time the World Cup has been hosted by multiple countries was the 2002 tournament which was played in Japan and South Korea. However, the European Championship has been hosted by multiple countries at the same time on a handful of occasions.
The Women’s World Cup has twice been hosted by the United States, in 1999 and 2003, and once by Canada in 2015. The U.S. has submitted failed bids for hosting in 2018 or 2022 with an expected financial cost of $9 million. With a joint bid, leaders of all three soccer federations are hopeful the individual costs for each country will be significantly less.