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Lots of time to get Trump focused on 2026 World Cup
by Paul Kennedy, February 16th, 2017 11:07PM
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TAGS:  canada, fifa, fifa scandals, mexico, u.s. soccer, world cup 2026


FIFA president Gianni Infantino got his wish for a 48-team World Cup in 2026 and now he wants a co-hosted tournament. That increases the likelihood that the USA will share the 2026 hosting rights with Mexico and Canada.

And in an interview with Reuters' Simon Evans, Canadian Victor Montagliani, the Concacaf president, suggested that the possibilities were endless and the tournament could even be played in Central America and the Caribbean.

FIFA has every interest in having a co-hosted World Cup. A 48-team World Cup otherwise limits the number of countries who can host the tournament on their own to about a half dozen. In Concacaf, the United States is the only country that could realistically organize the tournament on its own.

A co-hosted tournament in 2026 within Concacaf also eliminates the possibility of a contested race. We all know what happened in 2010 when Russia and Qatar were awarded the hosting rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Of the 24 executive committee members who were supposed to vote, two were suspended for asking for bribes before the vote took place, and 14 others have since been banned for life or in some manner disciplined.

All these years later, the bidding races for the 2006 and 2010 are being investigated. The bidding contest between Japan and South Korea for the 2002 World Cup was so contested that when it came time for a vote in 1996 FIFA decided to have these rivals co-host the tournament.

There is nothing like that bitter feeling among the three North American rivals. U.S. Soccer and Montagliani's CSA are connected via MLS, the NASL, USL and NWSL. The Mexican soccer federation has close commercial ties in the United States. All three federations must present -- usually -- a united front in the face of the strength in numbers of Concacaf's Caribbean bloc.

The lingering question about a North America-hosted World Cup is what is the impact of Donald Trump's election as U.S. president. Not for the first time, Montagliani said he is not concerned.

"Not withstanding some of the politics that is occurring in this part of the world, Trump has been pretty consistent in his support of global events and sport throughout his career as a businessman. I am not sure I would see that necessarily changing now that he is a president," he said. "It is important, if we are going to do something like this, that we get it right from a football and administration end before we start worrying about anything above that. But I am also confident that a World Cup, the only thing of its kind would, no pun intended, trump politics."

It remains to be seen when the USA, Canada and Mexico might come out in favor of co-hosted tournament. Given the chaotic nature to the start of the Trump administration, now is probably not the time.

Originally, FIFA was supposed to decide the 2026 World Cup host in May at its congress. FIFA delayed the bidding after the Zurich arrests of May 2015. Concerns that the U.S. government would not fully support a U.S. bid because of the FIFA scandals were a real issue.

It would be no surprise if FIFA held off promulgating the bidding rules until later in the year when questions about USA-Mexico relations die down or are at least clarified and the Trump administration is in a position to focus on secondary issues like a North America World Cup.

The 2026 World Cup is still nine years out -- plenty of time for everyone to get their ducks in a row.

  1. Jonathan Mcgrain
    commented on: February 17, 2017 at 9:19 a.m.
    It's laughable to even consider that the Trump administration may be in a position to focus on the World Cup later this year. It would be a minor miracle if they're ready to focus on national security by then.
  1. Gus Keri
    commented on: February 17, 2017 at 9:26 a.m.
    In any regard, the US should prepare a bid to host it alone. Just in case.
  1. Fire Paul Gardner Now
    commented on: February 17, 2017 at 12:09 p.m.
    I think the best strategy is to keep Trump as far away from this bid as possible.
  1. Scott Buccola
    commented on: February 17, 2017 at 3:55 p.m.
    Does it need to be pointed out that Trump will not be President in 2026? So, while there may be concerns about things happening now, by 2026 a new administration will be in place, it might even be two removed if Trump only serves one term.
  1. Fire Paul Gardner Now
    commented on: February 20, 2017 at 9:58 a.m.
    The host for 2026 will be decided in 2020 when Trump will still be serving his current term.
  1. Miguel Dedo
    commented on: February 17, 2017 at 5 p.m.
    Why not go to an NCAA March Madness format with regional centers then a Final Four or Final Eight?
  1. Christopher Tallmadge
    commented on: February 17, 2017 at 7:58 p.m.
    We don't need a co-host. If there is one let it be Canada. Mexico has had two of their own. Three countries would be way too much grief for fans, not that FIFA would care.
  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: February 18, 2017 at 1:50 a.m.
    I think FIFA and the US could improve their standing in world football if both supported a CONCACAF program to help build one world-class facility per country in marginalized locations like Haiti and Honduras (along with a modern wastewater plant to support local sanitation). We don't need to host--Canada would be a good candidate as well, if they can plant enough sod pitches.

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