The Oceania Football Confederation, one of FIFA’s six regional governing bodies, threw its collective support behind a bid by the United States, Mexico and Canada to host the 2026 World Cup on Tuesday, putting another powerful shoulder behind the effort to bring soccer’s biggest event back to North America.
While the Oceania body is FIFA’s smallest confederation, its president, David Chung, is a FIFA vice president, and his unqualified support is yet another sign of the growing momentum toward approval of the bid, perhaps as soon as next year — two years ahead of schedule.
In March, a month before confirming they would bid as a group, the presidents of the soccer federations of the United States, Mexico and Canada asked FIFA to grant them an exclusive window to prove that their bid met all the technical requirements for hosting the tournament.
If those conditions are met — a perfunctory requirement, given that the stadiums, hotels and infrastructure needed to host the expanded 48-team tournament are in place — the three federations asked that a final vote to confirm the hosting rights be taken at the FIFA congress in 2018.
That plan, reported earlier by ESPN, would be two years ahead of the schedule FIFA laid out for the process last year, and it would freeze out any rivals before they could even make a pitch. Opposing bids were unlikely, anyway; the first 48-team, 80-game World Cup will be an enormous undertaking, and with Europe and Asia blocked from bidding because their confederations will host the next two World Cups, and South America publicly focusing on 2030, the pool of potential bidders was small.
In the Oceania Football Confederation’s statement on Tuesday, Chung said the United States-Mexico-Canada bid “makes sense on a number of fronts.” He noted, as organizers like U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati did last week, that the infrastructure was not an issue, and that the region had not hosted the World Cup since it was held in the United States in 1994. Mexico has hosted twice, in 1970 and 1986.
Most agree the event will break all attendance and revenue records for the World Cup, a fact that will surely not be lost on FIFA and its 211 member associations, many of whom get most of their revenue from payouts related to soccer’s quadrennial showcase event, whether they qualify to play in it or not.
Last week, a day after the public announcement of the United States-Mexico-Canada bid in New York, FIFA revealed that the agenda for its congress in May in Bahrain included discussion of the request for the expedited — and exclusive — bidding process. If the proposal is approved, FIFA will be tasked with carrying out inspections and issuing a final report to FIFA’s member associations by March 2018, with a final vote two months later.
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