US, Canada and Mexico push agenda for early 2026 award at FIFA Congress in May

By Paul Nicholson and Andrew Warshaw

April 12 – The United States, Mexico and Canada have somewhat cheekily asked FIFA to fast-track their bid to stage the 2026 World Cup without a proper competitive process.

An email to FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura dated March 11, 2017, asked her “per article 1 of the FIFA Statutes” to include an agenda item ‘FIFA World Cup 2026’ on to the FIFA Congress agenda in Bahrain to be held May 11.

FIFA’s new four-stage bid process for the 2026 World Cup was announced in May 2016 and stated that any vote would not be held until May 2020. But the north American associations want to circumvent that process and get FIFA’s commitment that they have the hosting rights – to be “cooperatively organised by one or more” of the three associations – three years in advance of the FIFA official timetable for awarding those hosting rights.

It is undoubtedly a sharp political move and could easily win Congress’s vote if FIFA president Gianni Infantino backs it, which looks likely. By awarding the 2026 World Cup hosting this May, other countries who may be considering 2026 bids are effectively taken out the game before it has even started.

There is certainly a strong case for the 2026 World Cup to go to the CONCACAF region on the basis of rotation that the FIFA Council has accepted in principle – though FIFA has accepted that principle before and then conveniently dis-regarded it.

The e-mail, signed by US Soccer president Sunil Gulati, CSA president Victor Montagliani and FEMEXFUT president Decio de Maria, makes the rotation point clear saying the AFC, CAF, CONMEBOL and UEFA will have all hosted World Cups (the AFC twice and UEFA three times) before the 2026 event. CONCACAF last hosted in the US in 1994. The US bid for the 2022World Cup, but lost out to Qatar in a vote that remains controversial and under investigation, as does the 2018 award to Russia that was made at the same time.

The lobbying within FIFA circles for the 2026 World Cup rights began some time ago and the North Americans even declared their intention to bid officially to FIFA a month ago – a declaration FIFA has kept under wraps. The three countries only officially announced their joint bid for 2026 on Monday (April 10), the email reveals they had already officially informed FIFA of their bid intentions.

The email asks Samoura to have the following proposal put before the full FIFA Congress “for endorsement”:

‘- Under the condition that all the technical bid requirements set out by the FIFA administration and approved by the FIFA Council are satisfied, the FIFA Congress agrees to the principle decision that the 2026 FIFA World Cup is jointly and cooperatively organised by one or more of the Canadian Soccer Association, Federacion Mexicana de Futbol Asociacion and US Soccer

– The FIFA Congress mandates the FIFA Council and FIFA administration to ensure that the cooperative bid of one or more of the Canadian Soccer Association, Federacion Mexicana de Futbol Asociacion and US Soccer satisfies the technical bid requirements by 2018 and requests the FIFA administration to report back ahead of the next FIFA Congress

– Should the cooperative bid of one or more if the Canadian Soccer Association, Federacion Mexicana de Futbol Asociacion and US Soccer not satisfy the technical bid requirements, the bidding process will be re-opened to all Member Associations under the conditions set out by the FIFA Council.

– Any decision will have to be ratified by the FIFA Congress in 2018’

Whether the FIFA membership will give permission to modify the agreed procedure is open to question, with Africa, South America and Oceania technically permitted to also go for 2026 under the rules.

One question for FIFA is also whether they should have given notice to their members who may have been thinking through their own potential bids in advance. Their new transparency and governance procedures strongly suggest they should have.

By not doing so but putting forward this motion to congress the FIFA executive have not provided a level playing field for the 2026 bid process. But then FIFA World Cup hosting bid wars have never been about level playing fields as US Soccer president Gulati – a leader of the unsuccessful US 2022 bid – will be the first to tell you.

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