In a historic announcement Monday afternoon in New York City, the federation presidents of the Canadian Soccer Association, the Federation of Mexican Football and US Soccer Federation announced the countries will file a joint bid to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
“This is a milestone day for U.S. Soccer and for CONCACAF,” US Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said in his opening remarks at a press conference held at One World Trade Center. “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. … 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.”
The bid would be the first of its kind. Japan and South Korea shared the 2006 World Cup, but the awarding of a World Cup bid is typically kept to one country. This is the first time a three-country bid has been announced in FIFA’s history and many prognosticators see this North American bid as the heavy favorite to win the bid, which is awarded May 2020.
Mexico and the United States have hosted World Cups in the past. Mexico became the first country to ever host the tournament twice (1970 and 1986) while the United States hosted the 1994 World Cup, which still holds the record for being the most lucrative and most well-attended World Cup in the tournament’s history.
The success of the 1994 World Cup has often been credited for launching soccer as a major sport in the United States, as Major League Soccer came to fruition just two years after the Cup’s conclusion.
Canada has never hosted a Men’s World Cup, but has held the 2015 Women’s World Cup and two youth World Cups in recent years.
The three federations are splitting the games 60-10-10, with the United States carrying the brunt of the load by hosting 60 games and Mexico and Canada splitting the remaining 20. It’s yet to be seen how those games will be parsed out.
The 2026 bid is unique for multiple reasons. It will be the first World Cup to feature the new 48-team format, which will most likely require expanded infrastructure and scheduling. It is also the first bid to be democratically selected. FIFA faced a lot of controversy over its picks for Russia (2018) and Qatar (2022) and rumors were rampant enough that the FBI launched investigation, with the cooperation on INTERPOL, that eventually uncovered a bribery and corruption scandal that ousted Sepp Blatter and many other FIFA officials.
From 2026 onward, World Cup bids will be awarded by the full FIFA Congress, which consists of all 212 member soccer federations.
One hurdle that the bid would have to clear is FIFA’s own established rules on automatic bids. Current rules allow the hosting country an automatic bid into the World Cup regardless of confederation standing. In the new 48-team configuration, that could get a bit more complicated.
All it states in FIFA’s release regarding the allocation of bids in a 48-team configuration is that automatic qualifiers for World Cup bids with multiple countries would “be decided by the FIFA Council,” with no other clarifying language.
That could prove to be an issue to the standing of the bid, as Canada’s involvement in this bid likely hinges on that host confederation autobid spot. Canada has only qualified for the World Cup once (1986) in its 105-year history and being a host federation would likely be its only chance to advance in a stacked CONCACAF.
Other rumored potential bids include Australia-New Zealand, Columbia, England, Kazakhstan, Morocco and Turkey-Azerbaijan. The bid is set to be awarded in May 2020.