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Sepp Blatter tabs USA as favorite to host 2026 World Cup

Robert Cianflone

The United States may be the leader to host the 2026 World Cup. They at least appear to be Sepp Blatter's favorite.

Blatter spoke in a video interview broadcast at the Soccerex Convention in Manchester, where he announced that he would run for a fifth term as FIFA president, then looked to 2026.

"If you look at the rotation of the World Cup then it should go back to Africa or go to the Americas," Blatter said.

"And as we have been in South America, I think North America has a better chance than South America -- if I'm looking on the, let's say, the logic of the turnaround of the World Cup.

"Perhaps there's a big commercial opportunity arising now in the United States because of the tremendous television audiences that are booming and that the World Cup has also encouraged in its domestic game as well. We did well with football when it first went to the United States but the opportunities are bigger now. Could you just have a look at those possibilities as to where the World Cup might travel from Qatar?"

That the U.S. is a favorite for 2026 is no surprise. The competition is not especially stiff. Europe is pegged to host one of every three World Cups, and after hosting 2018, it's out for 2026. FIFA will likely go to China soon, but because Asia is hosting in 2022, they are ineligible for four years later. That means the 2026 host will come from Africa, South America or North America and the U.S. and Canada are the only countries that have shown both interest and capability.

Blatter's support may not mean a ton, though. He didn't support Qatar in 2022 and they still won. But more than anything, who Blatter supports isn't normally about which country has the best bid or what would best serve the sport -- it's about politics.

It's no coincidence that Blatter made these statements on the same day he announced that he would run for FIFA president again. World Cup hosts are valuable for FIFA figures, like Blatter, to wave around to gather political support, and Blatter will certainly wave it around. It doesn't matter who he supports in the end, just that he is saying complimentary things that will appease some factions -- CONCACAF and president Jeffrey Webb, who has campaigned for the World Cup to return to the region, in this case -- and earn their support in the vote for president.

At the same time, Sunil Gulati has not committed to the U.S. bidding in 2026. It seems likely that they will, but he has said that they want to see some reforms to the bid process before they bid again. The recent investigation in 2018 and 2022 bid corruption came with recommendations on how to change World Cup bidding so those could bring the reforms Gulati wants, but, for now, the U.S. doesn't want to bid and Blatter is playing a political game.

Oh, and the 2026 World Cup likely won't be awarded until 2019. There's time.