Sports / Updates
Wednesday, 12 Apr 2017 15:50 EAT
The United States, Mexico and Canada have ended months of speculation by confirming that they will submit a joint bid to host football’s 2026 Fifa World Cup. The new development comes a few days after newly-elected Confederation of African Football (CAF) Ahmad Ahmad backed Morocco's bid for the event. The first time an African country hosted the event was in 2010 in South Africa.
The U.S-led proposal is for Concacaf, the sport’s governing body in North and Central America and the Caribbean, to stage the tournament for the first time since the U.S. hosted the 1994 World Cup. The U.S. would take a leading role in staging the games, with 60 of the 80 matches set to take place in the country.
Mexico – a two-time host, having held the competition in 1970 and 1986 – would share the 20 remaining games with Canada which, despite never having hosted the men’s World Cup, staged the 2015 Fifa Women’s World Cup. All of the matches from the quarter-final stage onwards would take place in the U.S.
The bidding process for the 2026 edition of the event is expected to start later this year, with a final decision on the hosts scheduled for 2020. However, according to the Associated Press news agency, the joint bid will ask Fifa to consider fast-tracking the process. The proposal - to award the hosting rights in June 2018, two years earlier than planned - is likely to be discussed on May 11 at Fifa's annual congress in Manama, Bahrain.
Asked whether Mexico in particular wanted to hold more games, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said, according to the Reuters news agency: “I think it's safe to say both countries would have liked to host more. In the end, it was a discussion, a negotiation, but a very friendly one.”
According to Fifa rules, Africa could also put forward a viable candidate to host the tournament, but Europe and Asia would be unlikely to be awarded the competition given that the 2018 event is heading to Russia and the 2022 World Cup will take place in Qatar.
“A World Cup in North America, with 60 games in the United States, will be by far the most successful World Cup in the history of Fifa in terms of economics,” Gulati said. “We've got 500 million people in these three countries. This will be an extraordinarily successful World Cup on financial and economic grounds.”
According to Gulati, the proposal also has the support of US President Donald Trump, despite his pledge to build a wall on the southern border to stem illegal immigration from Mexico.
“We outlined through someone who was communicating directly with the President what we wanted to do, and the message we got back was that the President encouraged us to go forward... said he was supportive of it and very pleased that Mexico was a part of it,” Gulati said. “To have governmental support is a critical part of a bid.”