Soccer federation presidents at 2026 World Cup bid press event
Photo by Arielle Castillo

Report: US, Canada, Mexico working to accelerate World Cup 2026 bid process

NEW YORK – The US, Mexico and Canada soccer federations revealed on Monday afternoon their plans to bid jointly for the 2026 World Cup. The announcement about the bid for the hosting rights of the tournament marked the first official proposal submitted to FIFA for that year’s competition.

If the three federations have their way, it'll be the only bid submitted. 

According to ESPN's Sam Borden and the Associated Press, CONCACAF will make a proposal at the FIFA Congress in May to accelerate the process of determining the host for the 2026 tournament, which is currently scheduled to run through 2020. The AP reported that if the proposal is passed, the winning bid would be decided in June 2018. 

As part of the proposal, which is reportedly already included as an item on the FIFA Congress agenda, the joint North American bid will ask FIFA's members for an exclusive window that would end on March 31, 2018 to prepare a report that showcases the specifications of its bid. No other countries would be allowed to submit a bid during this period. 

According to the proposed timeline, if the plan by the US, Mexico and Canada was to meet the required technical specifications laid out by FIFA – measures that range from stadium capacities to infrastructure and hotels – the countries then would be awarded the 2026 World Cup at the June 2018 FIFA Congress in Moscow. If the bid didn't meet the required specifications, a traditional bidding process would begin.   

US Soccer president Sunil Gulati hinted at the possibility of an accelerated process during the press conference announcing the joint bid on Monday. Under the normal bidding process, only South American and African countries would be able to bid for the 2026 tournament. 

“By the rules, Africa can bid, South America can bid,” Gulati said following a press conference on the 102nd floor of the One World Observatory in lower Manhattan. “I think South America has generally said they would like to wait for the next one, to wait for 2030. We’ve heard some things about Morocco, but we don’t know yet. 

“There will be some more news, I think, in the next few days. We’ve asked for FIFA to put this on the agenda for the May 11 meeting and I think tomorrow the agenda will go out and there will be some things that we will all learn then.”

Regardless of how the race for the 2026 World Cup is structured, it seems that the CONCACAF bid will be the odds-on favorite to win the rights for the first tournament to consist of 48 nations. Even so, the joint prospective hosts still need to finalize other details. Those include which cities in all three nations will host matches, whether or not games in Canada will be played on turf, and where they will host the opening match. The three countries have already agreed upon a split of matches, with the US set to host 60 games, including every game from the quarterfinals on, and Mexico and Canada slated to host 10 matches each. 

“I will push for [Estadio Azteca in Mexico City hosting the first game] because it means something,” said Mexican federation president Decio de Maria. “Estadio Azteca has had the opening and the final games of two World Cups, and if the Estadio Azteca can get the opening game of the 2026 World Cup, it will be part of history."

Another item that has to be figured out is whether or not the US, Mexico, and Canada all get automatic berths in the tournament. FIFA will ultimately decide on the matter, but the three CONCACAF nations strongly believe that soccer’s governing body will allow them all entry.

What that might do to the qualification campaign in the region is already causing questions among some observers. However, CONCACAF and Canada Soccer President Victor Montagliani says he's confident things will work out just fine.

“I think you’re going to see a massive improvement in the quality,” Montagliani said. “You already see it in CONCACAF. It’s not an easy place to play. You see two debutants in our Gold Cup coming up here this summer that you’ve never seen before, and you’re going to see some results as well that you probably haven’t seen before.

“It is what it is. We’re going to have six-and-a-half [berths], and we’ll qualify and move forward and the [other] teams that qualify will be the best teams in CONCACAF at the time.”

Despite all the details still in the balance, all three federation presidents said they're feeling bullish about their chances of landing the 2026 World Cup.

“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,” said Gulati. “We’ve got 500 million people in these three countries. This will be an extraordinarily successful World Cup on financial and economic grounds, and that’s critical because most of FIFA’s revenues come from one event. 

"The 209 people [national federations] voting all get funds from FIFA, and so they should also recognize that FIFA’s finances, on which many countries rely, will be greatly enhanced by a tournament in North America.”

ExtraTime Radio Podcast

LISTEN: It's official! The United States, Canada and Mexico are joining forces to bring the World Cup back to CONCACAF, making their pitch for 2026 official on Monday at a press conference in New York City. The guys walk you through all the details (31:02), then give their takes on what would be an incredible event. Plus, everything you need to know about MLS Week 6 and David Beckham stories with former MLS MVP Mike Magee (47:45). Subscribe so you don't miss a show!

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