The news is officially official. The United States, Canada, and Mexico will be submitting a bid for the 2026 World Cup. The three countries announced their intent on Monday during a press conference that didn’t reveal everything about their exact plans for the bid, but did tell us some important facets of it. It’s early days in the process with a final decision by the FIFA Council not expect to come down for several more years. However, this is what we know about the join bid from the initial announcement.
1. United States will host 75% of the matches
A vocal section of American soccer supporters have made their displeasure with the joint bid known. Concerns that the U.S. were bidding against themselves and that Mexico and Canada are not needed have been voiced. Sunil Gulati made it clear that the joint bid will be feature the United States as the focal point of the hosting accommodations with 60 of 80 total matches (75%) to be played in the USA. Could the U.S. host all 80 matches by themselves? Sure. But with so many matches, what’s the point in being greedy? (It’s also worth noting that a 32-team tournament contains 64 games, so the USA is basically hosting the equivalent of every World Cup from 1998-2022.) If allowing Canada and Mexico to enter the bid with a minority share of the matches helps the overall bid succeed, then it seems like a good plan. And there are reasons why them tagging along is important.
2. Donald Trump fully supported the bid
The reason for Mexico and Canada’s participation and roles in the joint bid being beneficial are mostly political if we’re being honest. President Donald Trump’s questionable political stances on immigration reform and restrictions have made the USA’s attempt to appease FIFA more difficult. Gulati says that Trump supported the bid and was pleased that Mexico is a part of it.
.@POTUS is fully supportive of our unified bid for the 2026 #FIFA World Cup and especially pleased that Mexico is a part of it.— Sunil Gulati (@sunilgulati) April 10, 2017
Unfortunately, this is the nature of dealing with international soccer. Politics and sports are bound to mix. FIFA’s dealings with Qatar and Russia aside, anything that helps the U.S.’ bid overcome controversy and political policy to bring the World Cup here is a plus. As previously stated, there’s no harm in spreading the wealth of so many matches and this is a good alternative to please FIFA.
"We don't think soccer can solve all the world's problems, but we think we can help." - Sunil Gulati
3. The United States will host the most important matches
Despite 20 matches being outside of the U.S., Gulati announced that every match from the quarterfinals on will be played in the States. That means the the most critical and high profile of matches will be here. That’s the most important thing, right? Canada can have the New Zealand vs. Turkey group match all they want as long as we get the France vs. Argentina quarterfinal. There are going to be so many matches with the 48-team format kicking in that some group matches and earlier stage knockout round matches will be a borefest. The U.S. getting all the crucial matches is the most important part of the current bid plans.
4. All three countries would likely receive automatic entry
Gulati says, "there has never been a WC" where hosts didn't receive auto bid. In other words, US/MEX/Can all expect automatic bids.— Sam Borden (@SamBorden) April 10, 2017
Three automatic bids for three countries seems like a lot and would render CONCACAF qualifying almost pointless, but it seems likely to happen. FIFA haven’t announced the exact rules for the bidding countries yet, but Gulati stated that history says no hosting country has never not participated in the tournament. In 2002, both South Korea and Japan were granted automatic entry. It’s safe to assume from the USSF President’s comments that these three countries will get the same benefit if the bid is chosen.
5. Matches likely won’t be played on turf
CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani admitted in the press conference that the topic of playing surfaces hadn’t been discussed yet. But, he did note that “every men's World Cup has been on grass. We assume this will be the same.” He also noted that FIFA will ultimately have the final say. This could put cities like Seattle and Atlanta at risk of not being able to host or at least having to adopt a temporary playing surface to accommodate FIFA’s regulations, as was the case when Detroit hosted in 1994. Of course, only two of Canada’s potential bid stadiums -- BMO Field and Stade Saputo — have natural grass, which is why the 2015 Women’s World Cup was played exclusively on turf. FIFA has previously expressed the desire to have all matches played on the same surface, so temporary grass seems like the most likely solution.