The United States, Canada and Mexico have declared their intentions to submit a unified bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup yesterday in an attempt to take advantage of the expanded land for the new 48-team structure of the competition and to draw attention to the sport. Each of the countries in this bid has shown they have the infrastructure to support a large international competition, with 13 World Cups in the youth, women’s and men’s level between them. Canada held the largest FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship to date in 2002, Mexico was the first country to host a second World Cup with tournaments in 1970 and 1986 and the United States held the most successful FIFA World Cup ever in terms of revenue and attendance in 1994.
When the 1994 FIFA World Cup came to the United States, it did a pretty good job of capturing American’s attention, enough for the US to start its own soccer league in the form of Major League Soccer (MLS) in 1996. The league’s attendance declined for years until U.S. Soccer managed to make the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup, which created a new surge of activity for the sport in North America. While many people think the only future spelled out for the MLS is a retirement league for European superstars, then they may be proven wrong if a 2026 World Cup goes well. Like the times before it, I think the timing of this competition is perfect for an evolving MLS league which could take the next step as far as talent and respect goes on the international level.
While the U.S. has not hosted a men’s World Cup since 1994, they held a truly impressive Copa America Centenario last year with over 1.5 million total spectators watching and on average 46,000 fans attending the 32 games held in 10 venues across the United States. US Soccer reports that the competition reached over 1.5 billion households internationally, being televised in over 160 countries.
U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati announced the intent of the unified bid yesterday on the top floor of the One World Observatory in New York with Federacion Mexicana de Futbol president Decio de Maria as well as Canadian Soccer Association president Victor Montagliani, who also is president of CONCACAF.
“This is a milestone day for U.S. Soccer and for CONCACAF,” Gulati said at the announcement ceremony. “We gave careful consideration to the prospect of bidding for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, and ultimately feel strongly this is the right thing for our region and for our sport.”
The announcement and timing for this seems to be perfect considering the circumstances surrounding the 2022 Qatar World Cup and previous 2014 Brazilian World Cup. These countries won the bid to host through severe corruption which has been heavily documented in the past few years, showing extreme misconduct in the use of health standards and pay of those working on the stadium, many times migrant workers working the equivalent of slave labor.
This bid comes at a time when the World Cup is expanding to 48 teams, and the three-country bid shows a reluctance to hastily build stadiums when there are wide, established stadiums and infrastructure in place to host an expanded competition. The co-host precedent could also lead to smaller countries that normally wouldn’t have a chance of hosting banding together to have the competition in their region.
Overall, this is very good news for soccer in North America and the precedent could spell wonders for the soccer programs in the three countries that hope to host with their intended bid. While soccer in most of the world has been corrupted by oil money from the club to the international level, this unified bid could help ward off some of the corruption bribes being thrown around by countries like Russia, Qatar and Brazil. Also, it would be awesome to have such a great competition back in the U.S., and the realization of this possibility could help spell a more complete future for soccer in the MLS.
Joe Burns is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.