The joint* USA/Mexico/Canada Cup bid is the favorite to land the expanded 2026 World Cup, but the organizers would like to take no chances: They’re planning to ask FIFA to speed up the awarding process by three years, and to accept no other bids for the tournament.
*As detailed in yesterday’s bid announcement, Mexico and Canada are just kind of along for the ride. With 48 teams instead of 32, there will be more matches, and U.S. would host 60 of those matches (with Mexico and Canada hosting 10 each, and none from the quarterfinals onward), or not much fewer than the 64 of a complete tournament under the current contract.
This is, essentially, an American bid, and it sure sounds like the other federations understand that they’re PR props for CONCACAF. The Mexican federation president Decio de María said yesterday it wasn’t what they wanted “but it is what we got.”
“The United States doesn’t need us to host a World Cup,” de Maria told Televisa. “That is the message. On Day 1, we didn’t have a single game. Today, 10.”
Not mentioned in the big announcement yesterday was the biggest actual news. As reported by Sam Borden of ESPN, CONCACAF is going to press FIFA to take the unprecedented step of not opening the World Cup up to other bids.
In the proposal, which is included as an item on the Congress agenda that has already been sent to member associations, the CONCACAF bid will ask the world governing body’s 211 members for a unique, noncompetitive window — for example, six months — in which it would prepare a report that showcases the technical specifications of its bid, covering everything from stadium capacities and infrastructure to hotels and transportation.
If the bid were to meet the required technical specifications set out by FIFA — which would certainly be expected from countries that frequently host big sporting events — then it would simply be awarded right then. If not, the traditional bidding process would begin.
CONCACAF wants an answer quickly. While under normal circumstances, this World Cup wouldn’t be awarded until 2020, the request for an expedited, no-bid process could result in a yes-or-no answer from FIFA by the end of this year.
The pollyannas defending this plan will tell you that it’s in everyone’s interest to get the 2026 hosts decided as quickly as possible, especially since that’ll be the first 48-team tournament and there’ll be more moving parts to lock down. And if the CONCACAF bid is a strong favorite anyway, why waste everyone’s time with a bidding process?
The cynics—or, the FIFA realists—would note that no-bid contracts are magnets for corruption. FIFA is no stranger to corruption. Neither is CONCACAF. This feels like the sort of thing that there’ll be hearings on 20 years from now.
Anyway, my final verdict is that there’s a good chance we’ll all be dead by 2026.