TORONTO – Biggest ever. Most diverse ever. Most profitable ever. And a groundbreaking display of international unity and cooperation.
That was the pitch from representatives from the US, Canadian. and Mexican soccer federations as they underlined the strength and uniqueness of their united bid to host the FIFA 2026 World Cup in a pre-MLS Cup press conference on Saturday.
In fact, BMO Field, the venue for the league championship match, itself boasts a legacy of hosting a past tournament, the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup. That provided the original impetus for the venue's construction, before the creation of Toronto FC.
“In my country,” said Mexican federation president Decio de Maria, “We love soccer, we love to host events.… That’s in the blood of Mexicans. We love to host, we love to share, we love to construct. And that’s what we plan to do with our brothers Canada and the US, and show the world that we can do the best World Cup in the new format of 48 teams.”
Noting that the three nations have hosted a whopping 13 FIFA tournaments between them, including three senior World Cups, Canada Soccer president Steven Reed extolled the unprecedented ambition, scope and unity of the combined North American bid. In the coming months it will compete with fellow bidder Morocco for the hosting rights set to be awarded by 207 FIFA member nations (bidding nations themselves don’t get to vote) on June 13 of next year.
With the tournament set to expand from 32 to 48 teams in 2026, the event will take on an even more massive scope. The North American bid plans to make clear to FIFA voters the continent is ideally suited to host it, with no need for new, World Cup-specific stadium construction.
BMO Field, a potential venue for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, was originally planned and constructed due to Canada's successful bid to host the 2007 U-20 FIFA World Cup / USA Today Sports Images
“We’ve got everything in place between the three countries in terms of infrastructure: hotels, stadiums, transportation – in a way that no other region of the world could do it, especially for an expanded World Cup,” said bid chairman and US Soccer president Sunil Gulati. “[But] this isn’t going to be a computer-generated program that spits out an answer of what the best bid is. So we’ve got to campaign.
“We’ve always had a very special relationship with these two federations,” he added, “so they’ve been partners for a long time, and the countries have been partners.… So the message that hopefully this sends about relationships and international issues is extraordinarily important.”
Gulati and his colleagues contend that a North American World Cup 2026 will reap unprecedented profits for an organization hit hard by costly scandals in recent years.
“We believe that between the size of the stadiums, which obviously impacts attendance, the level of hospitality available at stadiums, which affects revenue, and the commercial opportunities that are available to FIFA, this will be by far the most successful financial World Cup,” he said. “And it’s probably a pretty good time for that to happen for FIFA.
“The sponsorship problem at FIFA, which has been written about, is primarily the shortfall right now in regional sponsorship. That would be a big hit, obviously, in these three countries, with a population of half a billion and with the wealth of the countries. That will certainly be an important part – and it is a part of the scorecard FIFA looks at.…
"It’s already been mentioned and written about in various publications that the television revenues would be greater if the event was in the US," he continued. "So that is not lost upon us – or, we will make sure it’s not lost upon the 207 voters, many of whom rely primarily upon FIFA for their financial stability."