ZURICH: A clue to the shape of the 2026 World Cup may emerge from the first meeting of the expanded FIFA Council in Zurich on October 13-14 writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
A simple meeting agenda item concerning an update on the bidding process for the World Cup which follows Qatar 2022 hides a multitude of possibilities under consideration by a working group.
Preparations for bidding had been begun in the pre-crisis 2015 days under the reign of Sepp Blatter as president and Jerome Valcke as secretary-general. The process was then put on hold until after the election of Gianni Infantino this past February with Blatter banned and Valcke sacked.
Infantino made a point of proposing an expansion of the finals from 32 to 40 teams in his campaign manifesto and has continued to support such a change which would echo events at the European federation while he was general secretary. Euro 2016, this past summer, was the first to be held with 24 teams, instead of 16.
A further issue concerns how such a tournament could be staged.
Blatter remained firmly opposed to co-hosting after the costly political staging of the 2002 finals in both Japan and South Korea.
However Infantino has no such qualms, fortified by his European experience, with three of the last five Euro finals tournaments co-hosted (Holland and Belgium in 2000, Austria and Switzerland in 2008 then Ukraine and Poland in 2012).
Informally, central and north America is considered a likely favourite region to stage the 2026 finals, not least because of the controversy caused when the United States lost out to Qatar in the controversial 2022 vote.
In the past year, however, neighbours Mexico and Canada have also indicated a wish to bid which has prompted talk of a three-way hosting.
Next month’s agenda update could shed some light on current FIFA thinking.
Asia can have little to say about the issue after the confederation’s self-harming refusal last week to elect three new delegates to FIFA Council in an empty gesture of defiance to the world federation’s ethics committee.
This means the 36-strong council will be down to 33 and Asia will have left itself short of voices around the table.