The USA has always been the favorite to host all or part of the 2026 World Cup, but that looks more and more likely in light of the bidding rules for the tournament approved by the new FIFA Council.
Whether that is the USA on its own or a combined bid involving Canada or Mexico or both remains to be seen.
FIFA has gone back and forth in its bidding rules, first excluding European and
Asian countries, then just Asian countries, from the 2026 bid process. FIFA's final position in a 2026 World Cup bid process that was to have finished in May 2017 is that Asian countries can't
participate -- Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup -- and European countries will be on standby if "none of the received bids fulfill the strict technical and financial requirements." (Russia will host
the 2018 World Cup.)
It is hard to imagine that the USA will not pass those technical and financial requirements of hosting the World Cup. If it can't, who can?
FIFA has not
set out the timeline for the bid process or the details of the technical and financial requirements for hosting. For the USA, the longer the better as it allows a U.S. bid effort time to coordinate
with the new administration, which won't be in place until January 2017.
It's rather clear who U.S. president Sunil Gulati
is rooting for. Former President Bill Clinton
headed the unsuccessful 2022 bid in 2010, so U.S. Soccer has old ties to Team Clinton. Donna Shalala
, president of the Clinton Foundation, is an at-large member of U.S. Soccer's board of
Gulati's only comment on the presidential election came at a media roundtable in June during the Copa Centenario: "The world’s perception of the United
States is affected by who is in the White House. It has some bearing, for sure. Having somebody in the White House that gives the country an outward-looking view and a personality that is more easier
accepted around the world is positive for the United States and then more specifically for hosting events here and for our general image from a sports perspective, but it’s far beyond sports. A
co-hosted World Cup with Mexico would be a little trickier if Secretary Clinton is not in the White House. Can it help you or can it hurt you? Both.”
The longer FIFA waits until
the bid process begins the more time it has to rehabilitate its name with U.S. lawmakers and government officials. FIFA will have to negotiate terms on all sorts of hosting issues -- visas, customs,
taxes, infrastructure support -- and U.S. officials won't easily cooperate if they get push-back from the media and government watchdog groups about corrupt FIFA.
Will the USA have
competition for a 2026 bid from outside North America? It's hard to imagine a country in Africa or South America on its own matching up. But FIFA would like competition in the bidding process. FIFA
president Gianni Infantino
said as much on Friday.
“It is still too early to say that,” he said when asked if the USA was the favorite. “We hope we have many
bidders and we can choose ... who the best bidder is.”
One of the problems with the organization of the 2014 World Cup was that host Brazil did not have any competition, so FIFA
exact tougher terms on the organizers.
Many of those organizing problems, of course, won't be an issue in the USA, which has dozens of stadiums available to host a 32-team tournament or
any number FIFA decides. Infantino is pushing to expand the tournament to 40 or 48 teams.
now know some of the rules,” Gulati, who sits on the FIFA council and whose power within FIFA circles has grown in recent years, told the Associated Press. “We will look at it. We have great relationships with Canada and
Mexico. We also have a country with 320 million people that has hosted a World Cup and with a lot of terrific stadiums and great infrastructure.”