History was made on Monday when United States Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati, along with Victor Montagliani and Decio de Maria, the leaders of the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) and Federación Mexicana de Fútbol (FMF) respectively, announced their intention to submit a unified bid to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup throughout North America.
Montagliani is also CONCACAF President, and his presence and support of this joint bid is indicative that the entire CONCACAF region is in support of the plan. With Asia and Europe prohibited from bidding for the 2026 World Cup, only an African nation could theoretically contend with North America’s joint bid. Realistically though, the odds of an African nation putting together a bid as comprehensive or robust as what the United States is capable of offering along with Mexico and Canada are quite low.
“This is a milestone day for U.S. Soccer and for CONCACAF,” U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said. “We gave careful consideration to the prospect of bidding for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, and ultimately feel strongly this is the right thing for our region and for our sport. Along with our partners from the Canada Soccer Association and the Federación Mexicana de Fútbol, we are confident that we will submit an exemplary bid worthy of bringing the FIFA World Cup back to North America. The United States, Mexico and Canada have individually demonstrated their exceptional abilities to host world-class events. When our nations come together as one, as we will for 2026, there is no question the United States, Mexico and Canada will deliver an experience that will celebrate the game and serve players, supporters and partners alike.”
Gulati outlined a competition that would see 60 of the 80 overall games of the tournament played in the U.S. with a further 10 hosted in Mexico and Canada each. From the quarter final onward, the United States would host all the remaining matches in the build up to the final. No details on which cities may play host have been revealed as of yet, but prospective Major League Soccer expansionists in San Diego have already indicated their interest in welcoming the world to “America’s Finest City” if the World Cup was to be played in the United States.
“A World Cup in North America, with 60 games in the United States will be by far the most successful World Cup in the history of FIFA in terms of economics,” Gulati said. “We’ve got 500 million people in these three countries. This will be an extraordinarily successful World Cup on financial and economic grounds.”
Also of note, the joint bid apparently has President Donald Trump’s support despite his polarizing plans for a border wall to prohibit illegal immigrants from Mexico.
“We outlined through someone who was communicating directly with the president what we wanted to do, and the message we got back was that the president encouraged us to go forward … said he was supportive of it and very pleased that Mexico was a part of it,” Gulati told reporters.
“To have governmental support is a critical part of a bid.”
Traditionally, the host country of a World Cup is exempt from the qualification process. It remains uncertain as to whether all three potential host countries would be afforded the same rights as previous host nations.
What happens next? Late on Monday, ESPNFC’s Sam Borden reported that confirmation of the joint-bid may come as soon as this year. Ordinarily, the 211 member nations of FIFA would vote to award the host nation of the 2026 tournament in the year 2020, but due to the sheer strength of the bid prepared by Gulati, de Maria and Montagliani, coupled with the necessity to adequately prepare for FIFA’s first 48 team tournament, Borden revealed that, “CONCACAF is planning to make a proposal at May’s FIFA Congress that could accelerate the entire process, which would normally be expected to last until 2020.”
Time will tell what happens next on this front, but it is fairly safe to say that the World Cup is returning to North America.
Videos courtesy of U.S. Soccer/Wazee Digital