KEIR RADNEDGE in MEXICO CITY —- FIFA approaches its third  congress in a year – in Mexico City this week – by reverting to square one in its progress towards picking a host for the World Cup finals in 2026.

Originally the world football federation has provisionally set congress in Kuala Lumpur next year as the date and place for the decision. But the scandal-scarred past year has enforced all sorts of changes including the organisation of the World Cup bid process.

Gianni Infantino: first congress in charge

The United States is considered early favourite though CONCACAF region neighbour Mexico has also stated an intention to bid for what would be the country’s third hosting agter 1978 and 1986.

It is now more than decades since central and North America staged the fnals, in the US in 1994. The US was then the most obvious victim of events in December 2010 when it lost out to Qatar in the fourth round of the voting by the exexcutive committee for the 2022 finals.

Cup confusion

FIFA’s newly-constructed  and expanded council, which has replaced the derided executive committee, will decide at its meeting in Zurich in October which confederations can put bids forward after confusion over the current rules. Certainly Asia will be barred because Qatar is playing host in 2022. This will be seen as giving China more time to prepare its owbn expected bid for 2030.

The FIFA council will also decide in October on whether to expand the tournament from its current 32 teams. Raising the tally to 40 was a manifesto proposal Gianni Infantino ahead of his victory in the presidential election in February. He has continued to speak in favour of a 40-teaM finals, pointing to the positive experience of his old employer, UEFA, with an expanded European Championship.

The first meeting of the FA Council has ordered a bidding process of four phases:

  • A consultation phase that will run until May 2017;
  • An “enhanced phase for bid preparation” between June 2017 and December 2018;
  • A bid evaluation between January 2019 and February 2020;
  • The vote in May 2020.

The consultation phase will look at four main areas: human rights and environmental protection, the ability to exclude bids that do not meet technical requirements, a review of stance on joint bids and whether to increase the World Cup to 40 teams.

FIFA Congress this week also see the world governing body take further steps down the road to reform which was reactivated at the February conference in Zurich which saw Infantino elected in place of banned and suspended Sepp Blatter.

FIFA Council has also recommended congress to admit Gibraltar and Kosovo as new members which would entitle them to late entry into the 2018 World Cup qualifying tournament; this is possible because the European qualifiers have yet to start.

Congress will also vote on the confirmation of the suspensions Indonesia, Kuwait and Benin over issues concerning domestic political interference contrary to national and international statutes.

In other decisions Ecuador has been issued with a FIFA grant of $500,000 to rebuild football facilities wrecked by the recent earthquake and Uruguay will host the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2018.