NEW YORK — The United States, Mexico and Canada formally announced on Monday that they are combining on a shared bid to host World Cup 2026. The tournament will expand from 32 to 48 teams for the ’26 tournament, and FIFA president Gianni Infantino has encouraged joint bids to accommodate the increased number of teams.
There has never been a World Cup hosted by more than two countries, and only once has there been a co-hosted World Cup, when Japan and South Korea joined forces in 2002.
Here are my three thoughts on the announcement:
The U.S. gets a lot in this partnership
The proposal calls for 60 of the 80 World Cup games to take place in the U.S., while Mexico and Canada would get only 10 each. What’s more, the proposal calls for the U.S. to stage every game from the quarterfinals onward. In return for being part of the bid, Mexico and Canada would almost surely get automatic spots in the World Cup as hosts—and they would help the U.S. draw votes from the 209 FIFA member nations that will vote for the World Cup ’26 host in May 2020.
Also, the shared bid prevents Mexico competing against the U.S. to be the host of a tournament that very likely seems headed to CONCACAF for the first time since 1994.
U.S. Soccer says President Trump is on board with a joint bid
U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati went out of his way to say that President Donald Trump had communicated to U.S. Soccer that he was supportive of a joint bid and “especially pleased” that Mexico would be part of the joint bid.
The U.S. will have to make assurances to FIFA that every country that qualifies—including potentially Iran, a World Cup regular that was on Trump’s travel ban list—will be able to have their teams, fans and media be able to enter the country. And while Trump would not be in office in 2026, he may well be in charge still when the vote takes place in May 2020.
Canada answered the playing surface question badly
Victor Montagliani, the Canadian Soccer Association and CONCACAF president, was asked if the playing surfaces in Canada would be natural grass or artificial turf. They were artificial turf for Women’s World Cup 2015 in Canada, a controversial choice considering the women playing in that tournament thought they were being unfairly treated compared to the men’s World Cup (which has never taken place on fake grass). Montagliani responded by saying: “Every men’s World Cup has been on grass. We assume this will be the same.”
He added it would be FIFA’s call in the end. Not a good answer.