Soccer leaders in the United States, Mexico and Canada already were talking about a joint bid for the 2026 World Cup, so they likely were well prepared for FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s announcement Thursday that FIFA will encourage bidders for soccer’s biggest tournament to partner up.
“We will encourage co-hosting for the World Cup because we need FIFA to show we are reasonable and we have to think about sustainability long-term,” Infantino said, per Reuters. “[We could] … maybe bring together two, three, four countries who can jointly present a project with three, four, five stadiums each. We will certainly encourage it. Ideally the countries will be close to each other.”
The idea that one nation should host large sporting events like the World Cup or the Olympics has come under question of late considering the staggering costs associated with building facilities that become underused once the event ends. In Brazil, which hosted the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, a number of publicly financed facilities built for those events already have fallen into a state of disrepair because of local arguments over who will maintain them. Sharing events such as the World Cup or Olympics would lessen the financial blow for countries that want to host.
With its neighbors as partners or not, the United States seems well positioned to host the 2026 World Cup with numerous stadiums already in place. Plus, the consensus is that it’s North America’s turn to host the event again. Countries in the European and Asian soccer federations are forbidden from bidding on the 2026 World Cup because they will have hosted the two previous tournaments, and the event was last held in North America in 1994.
“I think any one of the countries could probably put on a good show on their own,” Victor Montagliani, president of the North American soccer federation, said of the United States, Mexico and Canada in January. “But I think there seems to be a prevailing thought that a confederation-type bid with multiple hosts is probably good for football.”
The idea of a shared major soccer tournament hardly is new, either. Japan and South Korea co-hosted what was regarded as a successful World Cup in 2002, and the European Championship has been shared by multiple countries three times in the past. It will be held in 13 cities in 13 countries in 2020.
“It’s a good idea, and Europe has of course previously worked in this way on the European Championships,” Swedish FA chair Karl-Erik Nilsson told Reuters. “We are used to it and it works well, it makes it possible for more countries to arrange [tournaments], and in that way it is positive.”
The host or, more likely, hosts of the 2026 World Cup will be announced in 2020. It will be the first World Cup with 48 teams after FIFA voted to expand the tournament from 32 last month.