KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- The national football federations of the United States, Canada and Mexico have launched a joint committee to press home their bid to win co-host rights to the finals of the 2026 World Cup.

The bid is overwhelming favourite, partly because of the rotation restrictions approved by world federation FIFA which bars competing bids from Europe and Asia because of what will be the immediately previous hostings in Russia (2018) and Qatar (2022).

Also a favourable broadcasting deal was struck with Fox to head off legal problems after the 2022 finals in the Gulf were shifted to November and December – a far less attractive scheduling date for US TV – from the traditional June/July slot.

United 2026 . . . already the favourite

The prospects for a lone US bid were complicated by the hosting ambitions of neighbouring Mexico and Canada: Mexico had already hosted the World Cup successfully in 1970 and 1986 while Canada was a successful host to the Women’s World Cup in 2015.

An agreement between the three for a co-hosted bid lifted the danger of political problems within the regional central and north American confederation CONCACAF.

Credibility issue

The confederation has enough problems regained credibility after senior figures including former general secretary Chuck Blazer and three former presidents (Jack Warner, Jeff Webb and Alfredo Hawitt) were indicted by the US Justice Department in the FIFAGate corruption scandal.

FIFA Council decided in January that the 2026 finals should feature 48 teams which made co-hosting almost essential which suits the CONCACAF trio. Under a preliminary agreement the US would stage the majority of the 60 matches with Mexico and Canada hosting 10 each.

A statement from the United 2o26 bid committee claimed that “uniquely suited to handle the expanded format of a 48-team tournament, this unprecedented joint bid will be best positioned to unite the world in celebrating the biggest sporting event on the planet.”

John Kristick has been appointed executive director with Jim Brown as managing director, technical operations. Canada Soccer’s general secretary Peter Montopoli has been appointed Canada bid director with Televisa vice-president Yon De Luisa as Mexico bid director.

Sunil Gulati the FIFA Council member who is also US Soccer president said: “We are thrilled to kick off the bid process with our partners from Canada and Mexico. This is a special opportunity for North America to unite behind our sport of soccer and the quest to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

“The United bid committee has the experience and resources to deliver a successful bid but it will require an enormous team effort over the next eight and half months so we can demonstrate to FIFA the full potential of our three nations and  partners in CONCACAF to put on the finest World Cup in history.”

Board members include Gulati (chairman), Steven Reed, Montopoli (both Canada), Decio De Maria (Mexico federation president), Guillermo Cantu (also Mexico), Carlos Cordeiro, Donna Shalala, Dan Flynn, Don Garber (all US) and Victor Montagliani (CONCACAF president).

FIFA has set a deadline of August 11 for member associations to confirm their intention to bid. Last October FIFA Council decided that congress would decide on the host award in May 2020.

‘Critical’ collaboration

The statement continued: “With less than nine months remaining and anticipating a record number of cities competing to become host venues, the bid committee will begin formal outreach to cities and stakeholders immediately.

“Collaboration between all levels of government along with the business and soccer communities will be critical to demonstrate to  FIFA that the  first World Cup to be held in the CONCACAF region since 1994 should be awarded to Canada, Mexico and the United States.”

Mexico’s acceptance of ‘only’ 10 matches was greeted with annoyance in the local media but De Maria believes this will be forgotten in pride at becoming the first country to host the finals three times.

De Maria said: “This is a very important day. These three countries will be very happy to receive the rest of the world and to validate that football allows us to unite countries, that it is a celebration, and that we will receive all those who want to come to enjoy this great party.

“Offering the possibility for Mexico to organise a third World Cup is very special.”

The 1994 tournament in the US set an match attendance average and total attendance records that still stand even though the tournament has since expanded from 24 to 32 countries.

The only previous co-hosting was in 2002 when South Korea and Japan shared the finals in an overtly political decision. Seoul staged the Opening Match and Yokohama the Final.