MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) North America's request for an accelerated awarding of the 2026 World Cup without facing a challenge is on hold, for a few months at least.
FIFA's ruling council decided Tuesday to allow three more months for rival bids to be presented under plans that have to be rubber-stamped by the congress of all soccer nations on Thursday. A final decision is still anticipated by FIFA on hosting rights next year.
Europe and Asia are not currently eligible to bid because they are hosting the next World Cups - Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022. So Africa and South America have until August to find countries to bid - and stall the joint CONCACAF campaign by the United States, Canada and Mexico to land 2026.
Even if the Americans face a challenge, the FIFA Council still hopes for a decision to be taken at the congress in June 2018 in Moscow. If that congress is not satisfied that the bid - or bids - presented meet FIFA's technical or human rights requirements, the process would be re-opened and any country would be allowed to enter the race before a 2020 vote.
''For us, the most important thing was having an expedited process rather than a two or three year process and the council agreed with that,'' said U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati, who sits on the FIFA Council. ''We are happy to have competition because we are fully confident in the bid we can put together and the sort of World Cup we can put on.''
But Asian confederation leader Sheikh Salman told CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani at a public meeting on Tuesday that the North American bid ''will be the favorite.''
What is certain is that the 2026 World Cup will be the first edition with 48 teams instead of 32 - limiting the range of countries capable of hosting.
The council agreed entry quotas for the finals of: Europe 16, Africa nine, Asia eight, South America six, CONCACAF six, Oceania one. Two qualifiers will advance from a six-team mini-tournament in November 2025, with all confederations apart from UEFA represented.
The host country will automatically qualify for the finals and that slot will be removed from its confederation's quota. If there are multiple hosts, the FIFA Council will decide how many qualify automatically.