·Bid comes at time of heightened scrutiny of US-Mexico relationship
·US Soccer says Donald Trump is pleased Mexico is part of bid
·US will host majority of games – including final – under current proposals
The US last hosted the World Cup in 1994. Photograph: Chris Wilkins/AFP
If the ambitious three-nation bid, first reported last week by the Guardian, is successful it would be the first time a World Cup was co-hosted by multiple countries since the 2002 tournament in South Korea and Japan. The bid also comes at a time when the relationship between Mexico and the United States has come under scrutiny, with the US president, Donald Trump, vowing to build a wall on the Mexican border.
“We have the full support of the United States government in this project,” said the US Soccer president, Sunil Gulati, on Monday. “The president of the United States is fully supportive and encouraged us to have this joint bid. He is especially pleased that Mexico is part of this bid. And that’s in the last few days we’ve gotten further encouragement on that. We’re not at all concerned about some of the issues that other people may raise. We looked at bidding alone and decided in the end we wanted to bid with our partners in North America, and we have a strong encouragement from President Trump to that very end.”
Under the proposals, the US will host 60 games – including every match from the quarter-finals onwards – with Mexico and Canada splitting the remaining 20 fixtures equally. The United States last hosted the World Cup in 1994. That tournament was a 24-team, 52-match event that still holds the attendance record (with nearly 3.6 million spectators), despite a subsequent expansion of the format to 32 teams and 64 matches. Mexico previously hosted the tournament in 1970 and 1986, while Canada hosted the women’s World Cup in 2015.
The Concacaf president, Victor Montagliani, told the Guardian last week that a joint bid would be “a fit” with the new 48-country, 80-game format for the 2026 tournament, although each country individually would have the infrastructure to host the World Cup alone.
In May, Fifa announced a four-stage bidding process for the 2026 tournament with a final decision in May 2020. It later confirmed that the previous two World Cup hosts, Europe and Asia, will not be eligible to bid. That leaves North America’s Concacaf (which last hosted in 1994), Africa’s CAF (which last hosted in 2010), South America’s Conmebol (2014) and Oceania’s OFC (never).
The entirety of Fifa’s congress decided on World Cup hosts until 1982, when the power was entrusted to the organization’s executive committee of about two dozen members. After the controversial December 2010 vote that awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups – currently the subject of a criminal investigation by Swiss authorities – the decision was returned to the broader voting body of 211 members.
Morocco and Algeria have reportedly mulled official bids for 2026 and could challenge the North American bid should either broker an adequate voting alliance. Europe has 55 members in the Congress, Africa 54, Asia 46, Concacaf 35, Oceania 11 and South America 10.
South Korea and Japan were initially competitors with Mexico for the 2002 World Cup, with the Asian countries opting to unite their bids shortly before the decision was handed down. The political and logistical difficulties that ensued, including high-profile squabbles on whose name would appear first on the official logo and hosting rights for the opening game and the final, prompted Fifa to officially introduce a statute prohibiting co-hosting bids in 2004.
But the governing body went back on that decision last year, saying it will permit joint bids if they are from members of the same organizing committee.
The North American bid is bolstered by a fleet of gleaming new NFL stadiums built over the past two decades that are suitable for international matches.
“We have the luxury of being able to pick from stadiums and cities,” said Gulati. “And given what’s happened in the last World Cups and some of the Olympic Games, the thought of building sports facilities that don’t have a long term use is not one that’s particularly inviting for anyone.
“So in all of our cases, we have stadiums that have exist for professional teams or other events. We think that’s that huge advantage not just for us, but for Fifa or the IOC, that infrastructure that’s in place or developed for the NFL or for Liga MX, is a far better solution than spending hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars on stadiums that don’t have use beyond the tournament.”
Among the possible venues in the US are MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey (82,500 capacity, opened in 2010); AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas (80,000, 2009); Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California (68,500, 2014); Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts (66,000, 2002); and Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia (69,500 in 2003).