USA would host 60 games if the FIFA World Cup comes to North America in 2026; Canada and Mexico would get 10 each
Laura Armstrong | The Toronto Star
The number 10 is going to be following Mexican Football Association president Decio de Maria around for the rest of his life.
That’s the number of games Mexico would get under the proposed bid to bring the FIFA World Cup to North America in 2026. Canada, too. The United States would host the other 60.
Almost immediately after the bid was announced last April, de Maria said, he started to hear about how few games Mexico would host. He understands, he said; in Mexico, the No. 1 passion is religion. Behind that is soccer.
“In Mexico we love soccer; we have a lot of passion for the game,” he said during a news conference to discuss the bid in Toronto on Saturday. “We think we have the best stadiums in the world. We have definitely many, many stadiums (but) not the size that are required to do this bid.”
In Canada, infrastructure was also an issue. Only four of the 32 cities that remain in contention to host matches are north of the border — Toronto, Edmonton, Vancouver and Montreal.
“The reality is we would have been hard-pressed to go it alone with a 48-country competition,” said Steven Reed, president of the Canadian Soccer Association.
Part of how FIFA grades the bids includes whether proposed venues already exist; those that don’t will be graded lower than those that do. Sunil Gulati, the United States Soccer Federation president and bid chairman, said governments, cities and perhaps even FIFA seem more reluctant to build stadiums that won’t get use after the event.
“The U.S., in terms of infrastructure, clearly has far greater stadiums that could host the World Cup — but this is about three countries coming together, so it’s not just down to number of games,” Gulati said. “That’s one indication. We had long discussions about it and we thought our strongest bid would be what we submitted.”
The group has to formally submit its bid next March and will learn its fate on the eve of next summer’s World Cup in Russia. It will be the biggest World Cup ever staged, expanded to 48 teams for the first time. Morocco also is bidding to host the tournament.
Gulati said he expects Morocco’s bid to be strong, with the African country’s promotional group campaigning hard to the 207 voters — but as of right now, infrastructure and all of the requirements are much easier to meet in North America.
Revenue projections will also be part of the scorecard that FIFA looks at, a fact that is not lost on Gulati.
“We believe that between the size of the stadiums, which obviously impacts attendance, the level of hospitality available at the stadiums, which affects revenue, and the commercial opportunities that are available to FIFA, this will be by far the most successful financial World Cup,” he said. “It’s probably a pretty good time for that to happen for FIFA.”