A “historic announcement” has been promised imminently which is expected to confirm that Canada, Mexico and the United States will submit a bid to cohost the 2026 World Cup finals.
The likelihood of the tournament being staged in the CONCACAF region has been increasingly likely ever since an initial TV deal with Fox and Telemundo was signed by world federation FIFA in 2015.
That was widely seen as a move by the regime of former president Sepp Blatter by avoid legal action after the US was surprisingly beaten to the 2022 staging by Qatar.
Then, last October, FIFA Council under new president Gianni Infantino indicated not only an increase in the number of finalists but an end to the governing body’s opposition to cohosting and the return to a rotation system for staging. This ruled out serious rivalry from Europe and Asia.
January’s decision to expand the finals to 48 teams meant few countries will be able to host the finals on their own in future and offered CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani the opportunity to avert what would have been damaging infighting between the US, Mexico and his own Canada.
Over the weekend, after a meeting in Aruba, a CONCACAF source indicated to the media that the trio were preparing a joint bid for 2026; a “historic announcement” would be made on Monday by Montagliani, USSF president Sunil Gulati and Mexican federation head and CONCACAF vice-president Decio de Maria.
This confirmed comments made exclusively to this writer by De Maria last week.
He said: “We have been saying for the past five years that we wanted to try to host the World Cup in 2026 and nothing has changed our interest and determination.
“Our fans are excited about the chances to make football history by co-hosting and in seeing the Estadio Azteca become the first stadium ever to host matches in three different World Cups.
“We are in discussions about this. I think we get on well with the other federations and I am very positive about the idea. We have other excellent venues and, after all, Mexico is a football-crazy nation.”
De Maria has not been deterred by controversy over US President Donald Trump’s controversial proposal to build a border wall.
He said: “There is a political issue, of course, but we have plenty of time and this is talking about sport and a great opportunity for all our countries.”
The success of a three-way bid would make Mexico the first country to host the World Cup three times after 1970 and 1986.
The 1994 tournament in the US set an match attendance average and total attendance records that still stand even though the tournament has since expanded from 24 to 32 countries.
Canada has never hosted the men’s tournament but was praised widely for its hosting of the Women’s World Cup in 2015.
However it will take some delicate negotiating to decide how the high-prestige matches are split between the trio.
Early speculation has suggested the Opening Match might be staged in Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca with the Final in the US – possibly Pasadena as in 1994 – and ‘junior partner’ Canada enjoying at least one of the semi-finals.
The only previous co-hosting was in 2002 when South Korea and Japan shared the finals in an overtly political decision. Seoul staged the Opening Match and Yokohama the Final.