FIFA’s North American World Cup landscape comes into focus

Sunil Gulati

By Andrew Warshaw

October 17 – North America seems virtually certain to host an expanded World Cup in 2026 after FIFA essentially barred Europe and Asia from bidding. FIFA’s new-look Council has agreed that the next two host confederations should not be allowed to bid again so soon, leading US Soccer federation president Sunil Gulati (pictured) to remark: “That has changed the landscape a little bit.”

For the first time and as part of FIFA’s reform process, the choice of the host will be taken in future by FIFA’s full 2011 congress with bids vetted first.

FIFA says Europe will be put on standby only if “none of the received bids fulfill the strict technical and financial requirements.”

That seems extremely unlikely if the United States, which held the tournament in 1994, decides to bid, either alone or jointly with Canada and Mexico. A three-way bid could prove especially attractive now that the finals seem sure to be expanded to either 40 or 48 teams. A decision on that will be made on January 9-10 when the FIFA Council next meets in Zurich.

Although the contest could technically include bids from Africa and South America. CONCACAF has long been seen as the natural host for 2026 having lost out when the rotation system approved during Sepp Blatter’s presidency was abandoned. Rotation has pretty much now been restored.

“We now know some of the rules,” said Gulati. “We will look at it. We have great relationships with Canada and Mexico. We also have a country with 320 million people that has hosted a World Cup and with a lot of terrific stadiums and great infrastructure.”

Other decisions taken by FIFA include:

– FIFA’s 2017 congress will be held in Bahrain – home of FIFA vice president Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain. The original venue of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, headquarters of Asian football,pulled out.

– The FIFA annual awards ceremony, formerly known as the Ballon d’Or, will still be held in Zurich – on January 9 to coincide with the next Council meeting. It had been suggested the gala would move to London.

– CONCACAF’s Gold Cup tournament in 2017 will kick off two days earlier, end four days earlier and be played July 7-26.

– Appointment of Canadian Bruno De Vita as second deputy chair of the investigatory chamber of the ethics chamber

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