KEIR RADNEDGE in ZURICH: With the storms over the 2022 World Cup beginning to fade over Qatar so world federation FIFA is already thinking ahead to 2026.
The executive committee, meeting over the past two days in Zurich, set May 2017 on the eve of the Kuala Lumpur congress for a decision on the 2026 finals for which the United States will be initial favourite.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter and secretary-general Jerome Valcke indicated that the starting gun will be fired shortly after the Congress in Zurich on May 29 and 30 which is likely to see the 79-year-old Swiss elected for a fifth term in office.
Hardly had the basic dates been issued than Jeffrey Webb, president of the central and North American region, submitted an unofficial claim for the finals to be directed to his CONCACAF domain.
Webb and a fellow exco member, United States Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati, are among those still smarting from the memory of controversial events in December 2010 when the US was beaten by Qatar in the last round of voting for the 2022 finals.
A recent, unwritten rule excluding regions which have hosted the past two World Cup would appear to rule out Asia and Europe. Morocco is the only African nation to have hinted at an interest in 2026 while Mexico could emerge as a local rival to the US. Canada may also enter the running with the imminent Women’s World Cup finals on its cv.
Whichever, Webb is determined to see one of his members land the prize.
He believes CONCACAF has a priority claim. In an interview with BBC Sport, he said: “I think when you look at it the rotation policy is the best and most fair and equitable for the 209 member associations. It’s unfortunate that rotation was stopped.
“I believe rotation is in the best interests of the game and I believe it should be returned – and, obviously, when you look at the stoppage of that rotation the confederation most affected by that was CONCACAF.”
As for ‘his’ contenders, Webb added: “It [football] is booming in North America, in the US. Definitely we’ve had expressions publicly from Mexico, from Canada and of course from the US.
“When you look at the infrastructure that’s in the US, in North America, I believe there’s no infrastructure like this in the world, in any parts of the world. I believe the US could host the World Cup next year.”
The chaos over the 2028 and 2022 bid process has seen FIFA assign the host decision to congress instead of the executive committee. The exco’s role will be to assess contenders and then hand congress a shortlist of up to three possibilities.
Webb is confident that, this time around, he system will be clear and transparent.
He said: “I believe from the onset everyone will know what’s at stake, everyone will know of course the requirements of the technical committee – what are their evaluation and assessments based on.
“Reports will be presented to the executive committee, shortlists will be made and then a presentation to the congress in 2017.”