CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani announced today that they expected the United States, Mexico, and Canada to submit a joint bid to FIFA to host the 2026 World Cup. Speculation of the rumored joint bid has been circulating for months, but as FIFA has started releasing their plans for expanding the World Cup to 48 teams beginning in 2026, it appears the joint bid will be a formality.
But, while it may be a good move for Mexico and an excellent move for Canada, it’s not the right move for the United States and fans of the game who would attend the World Cup for several reasons. First, the logistics of having to deal with 3 sovereign nations and all its entry laws dealing with visas and the free flow of travel between countries for matches is going to be hectic for the teams. The fans will be another ballgame, as dealing with the entry and re-entry of over 3 million fans will not be easy for FIFA and the 3 nations to deal with. That’s 3 sets of laws, 3 sets of customs and border regulations, 3 different visa application processes, and that alone will be a nightmare to navigate.
The logistics of the matches will be another issue. When South Korea and Japan hosted the 2002 World Cup, there were some logistical issues, but for the most part one was clear: with 8 groups, South Korea was placed in Group D (with the United States) and Japan headed up Group H. When they advanced to the knockout stage, they ended up on opposite sides of the bracket and there was no way for them to meet before the final in Yokohama. With 3 hosts, where will the host spots be? It will ensure that if all 3 made the knockout stage, you could have a host vs. host matchup in the 2nd round or quarterfinals. Who gets to host that match? Who will be slotted in the more favorable position? Who will host the final? All of these questions are already turf battles fought within a host nation. Add two more to the mix, each with a stadium or stadiums that could have hosted a World Cup or Women’s World Cup final, and who wins the right to host the final or the semis?
Second, World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF would turn on its head. Traditionally, the host nation (or host nations) automatically qualifies for the World Cup. Now that the field is 48, the host nation’s slot comes out of the allocation for its confederation. Under the new proposed allocations, CONCACAF would have 6 World Cup slots. Would they take 3 slots away from the other 32 eligible teams in CONCACAF and leave them to fight for the remaining 3? If Mexico and the U.S. automatically qualify, that takes away big money home games from the rest of the CONCACAF teams seeking to qualify. Would they let both money making teams go without a fight? Doubtful.
There’s also this provision from the new proposed allocation policy: “In the event of co-hosting, the number of host countries to qualify automatically would be decided by the FIFA Council.” So, FIFA could decide that they will only allow one or two teams to automatically qualify, leaving the others to try to qualify for a World Cup they are hosting. The thinking is that in that scenario, Canada would get an automatic spot because qualification for them would be more difficult than it would be for Mexico or the USMNT. Do they make the U.S. qualify? Mexico? Both? If so, what’s the point of a joint bid? And if one or more of those teams happen to not qualify under that scenario, you’re reaching uncharted territory in the awkwardness department of a nation hosting a World Cup where they are not in the field of 48.
Finally, the one thing that bothers USMNT fans the most about a joint bid with Mexico and Canada is the simple fact that the U.S. doesn’t need help hosting a World Cup. The 1994 World Cup is still the most well-attended and most profitable World Cup FIFA has ever had. The U.S. routinely laps the field in number of fans that have attended World Cups since 1994. Not to mention that America has more stadiums that are capable of hosting World Cup matches than Mexico and Canada combined. The United States has 137 stadiums that have a capacity of 40,000 seats or more (the minimum required to host a World Cup match) and 79 stadiums with a capacity exceeding 60,000 (the minimum for a World Cup final). Simply put, the U.S. could host a World Cup with every single match taking place in Texas. They don’t need to add Mexico or Canada into the mix.
There are probably some people who think the joint bid is a good move for CONCACAF and for fans of the game. However, a joint bid with Mexico and Canada is a move that doesn’t make sense for the United States. Perhaps over the coming months, they will decide to do what many USMNT fans desire and launch a solo bid to host the 2026 World Cup.