Last week, we got some very strong winks and nods that the United States, Canada, and Mexico would soon announce a joint bid to host the 2026 World Cup. Well "soon" apparently meant today, when the three soccer federations held a formal announcement in New York City confirming this news.
There are still more questions than answers, but two interesting tidbits did come out. First, the United States will host 60 of the matches in the expanded 48-team format, while Canada and Mexico will host ten matches each. Also, every match from the quarterfinals on will be in the United States.
Sunil Gulati says the joint World Cup bid will see 60 games played in the U.S., 10 games in Mexico and 10 games in Canada.
— Thomas Floyd (@thomasfloyd10)April 10, 2017
Under the 32-team format, which we will have for another two World Cups, there are 64 total matches. So, basically, the United States will host one normal-sized World Cup, including all the matches that will be actually interesting once the minnows get eliminated, while Mexico and Canada get to host a few scrappy contests between, like, Morocco and Australia or some such.
This is, to put it lightly, super lame. It doesn't feel so much like a joint bid between equals as much as the U.S. giving Canada and Mexico a few token matches for marketing purposes. This also means the best soccer stadium in the world, Estadio Azteca, won't be able to host any match after the Round of 16. Mexican Football Federation president Decio de Maria is a bit more optimistic, though:
MEX fed prez on 2026 WC: "Yes it's going to be 10 games in MEX but also games in LA, Houston, Dallas, Chicago, Phoenix. For us it's home"
— Steven Goff (@SoccerInsider) April 10, 2017
This is hardly unexpected. After all, it was assumed from the second the U.S. lost the 2022 bid that they would try again for 2026. And with the new FIFA rules preventing the previous two host continents from bidding, they won't have to compete with any bids from Asia or Europe. Since Brazil hosted in 2014, it's unclear who, exactly, will challenge the bid. So this looks more like a good bit of politicking by the United States bid—incorporate some rivals to form a strong conglomerate—which will make them all but locks to host.
As for the second tidbit, remember when Canada hosted the Women's World Cup in 2015? And everyone involved refused to put grass over the turf, even after companies offered to do it for free, and even though every men's World Cup ever has been played entirely on natural grass? Surely that will be a problem again for the ten games Canada will maybe host in 2026, right? Because FIFA insisted it had nothing to do with institutional sexism but was really about other factors?
Montagliani (CAN): We haven't discussed surfaces. "Every men's WC has been on grass. We assume this will be the same." Says FIFA's call.
— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) April 10, 2017
"We assume" - this, in a nutshell, vindicates all those who decried WWC2015 as tainted by institutional sexism. Not everyone has forgotten. https://t.co/uKLb3jI6lA
— Charles Boehm (@cboehm) April 10, 2017