The US, Mexico and Canada have announced they are making a joint bid to host the 2026 World Cup, aiming to become the first three-way co-hosts in the history of FIFA’s showpiece tournament.
Sunil Gulati, US Soccer Federation chief, who announced the bid in New York with his Canadian and Mexican counterparts on Monday, insisted they had the full backing of President Donald Trump, despite the US leader’s rocky relations with Mexico.
Earlier this year, Trump signed directives to begin building a wall along US border with Mexico and crack down on US cities that shield undocumented immigrants.
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“A nation without borders is not a nation. Starting today, the US gets back control of its borders,” Trump said.
The 2026 tournament, if awarded to the three countries, would produce the biggest financial boon ever for FIFA, said Gulati.
No nation from CONCACAF, the governing body for football in North and Central America and the Caribbean, has hosted the tournament since the United States in 1994.
The 1994 tournament remains the most attended World Cup in history, with just over 3.5 million fans flocking to its 52 games, an average of 68,991 per match.
Mexico has hosted the World Cup twice before – the 1970 event won by a Pele-inspired Brazil and the 1986 tournament won by an Argentina team led by Diego Maradona.
Canada, who have only made one World Cup appearance when they were eliminated in the first round of the 1986 finals, has never hosted the tournament.
The 2018 World Cup will be in Russia, while Qatar hosts the event in 2022.
The bidding process for the 2026 tournament is expected to begin later this year and to run until 2020.
“We announce our bid to bring the World Cup back to the United States, to Canada and Mexico in 2026,” Gulati announced on the 102nd floor observatory of the World Trade Center in Manhattan.
“We think this is a positive signal and symbol we should do together in unifying people, especially in all three countries.
“We outlined through someone who was communicating directly with the president what we wanted to do, and the message we got back was that the president encouraged us to go forward … said he was supportive of it and very pleased that Mexico was a part of it.”
Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from New York, said: “While the decision isn’t expected for another three years, this joint bid is a clear front runner also because there appears to be no challengers.”
Gulati said the initial plan was for 60 of the 80 World Cup games to be played in the US, with Canada and Mexico hosting 10 each. All matches from the quarter-finals onwards would be in the US.
The CONCACAF region is widely viewed as favourite to win the 2026 World Cup, given FIFA rules that restrict Europe and Asia from hosting again so quickly.
Some reports have suggested that Morocco, which failed in bids for four previous World Cups, could team up with Spain and possibly Portugal in a joint bid.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies