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
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.