KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: The favourites’ status of the United States, Canada and Mexico in their 2026 World Cup hosting bid has been underscored by FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

The head of the world football federation spoke about the positives advantages of co-hosting while in Dubai, reversing a FIFA policy of preferring single-nation staging ever since the complex, high-cost experience of Japan and South Korea in 2002.

A decisive factor in the change of heart has been the expansion of the finals from 32 to 48 teams in 2026 for which the only other declared candidate is Morocco. FIFA Congress will vote on June 23, on the eve of the kickoff of the 2018 World Cup in Moscow.

Infantino said: “Joint nominations are good, and the fact that Canada, the United States and Mexico are united in a common project is a positive message . . . FIFA does not have the right to impose heavy burdens on a single country if an event can be organised in several. ”

FIFA president Gianni Infantino

Many African sources have suggested that the Moroccan bid was more of a political statement to promote the federation’s ambition to replace Cameroon as host to the 2019 Nations Cup finals.

FIFA’s decision to stage the 2026 host vote at congress was hardly good news for the Russian organisers of the 2018 finals.

Back in the autumn of 2002 the then president of FIFA Sepp Blatter had decided, after a particularly angry congress in Seoul, that significant decisions should be removed from the immediate pre-World Cup congress.

On that occasion it was the presidential election which had grabbed all the angry headlines and attention rather than the World Cup kickoff but Blatter might as well also have been thinking about host ballots.

Timing shift

His solution was to shift the presidential election to the year after a World Cup; this would have made sense also for a World Cup host designation. But, at that time, congress was not involved in the process.

The present situation – which offers President Donald Trump plenty of social media opportunities to talk up the United States’ status in international sport – has arisen as a consequence of the need to reform the bid operation.

The scandal-ridden decisions in December 2010 concerning the 2018 and 2022 finals prompted reforms by which the decision was removed from the then executive committee and returned to congress.

Exco or council meetings are staged around the year but a congress of all the world’s football associations – with the exception of the extraordinary 2016 election – takes place only once a year, in late May or early June.

FIFA and Infantino, with its 2026 bidding process under way, could not push a 2026 vote back to 2019 because that will be the next election congress.

Hence the prospect of the 2026 award – and consolatory delight for the US just when their national team are missing the party – overshadowing the 2018 World Cup run-up.

New rules mean that the votes of all members of the FIFA Council and congress delegates will be open to public scrutiny. However the likelihood is that Morocco will withdraw before such an ‘open’ vote and the CONCACAF trio can be awarded the 2026 finals by acclamation.