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Why A 2026 U.S. World Cup is Not A Slam Dunk

 Why A 2026 U.S. World Cup is Not A Slam Dunk

In the wake of Thursday’s loss to Qatar in maybe the only place U.S. soccer can lose to them (the FIFA boardroom), many American soccer fans tried to rally their spirits by immediately turning their focus to the 2026 World Cup process.  An initial glance at the state of play right now for the World Cup suggests 2026 could be an even better opportunity for a United States World Cup than 2022.

CONCACAF would be long overdue to host the event (the last one being 1994) and by FIFA rules Europe and Asia would be ineligible to host.  South American would be unlikely because FIFA would probably want the 2030 World Cup in Uruguay/Argentina to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the tournament.  And out of North America, Oceania, and Africa the U.S. bid would look very promisingly, especially since it would then have been 32 years since the last American World Cup.

But upon further reflection a U.S. 2026 bid is in no way a slam dunk, despite our advantages.  Here are the top five reasons to not get your hopes too high about the 2026 bid:

1.  China – Yes, FIFA rules prohibit a federation from hosting consecutive World Cups, so China could not follow Qatar.  However, FIFA could change them between now and the next bid process if the right situation presents itself.  Chinese interest in a World Cup checks many of the boxes for FIFA: guaranteed profit, an infrastructure perfect for hosting such an event, a growing (or by 2026 grown) soccer market, and government assurances for a successful event.  Imagine the best of the U.S., Australia and Qatar bids, and you have China.  Such a cash cow might be hard to turn down.

2.  Canada – Mexico would be a prime place for a World Cup, but they have already hosted twice.  Canada, however, would be a compelling location for a World Cup and a perfect foil to a U.S. bid.  Again, Canada is a rich nation that has hosted Olympics in the past.  Soccer exists and has support, but a World Cup could really push its growth in the country.  The women’s team is already good.  If the Canadian team makes progress over the next few cycles, then Canada becomes a very attractive first-time bid.

3.  A first-time African nation bid - South Africa plus Qatar equals a dream scenario for FIFA.  Right now it’s hard to find a stable enough African country that’s not South Africa to be a really strong contender for a World Cup.  It is a long time between 2010 and the bid process, however, and there are a bunch of countries that could be viable for the next cycle.

4.  Map changes – There are some odd anomalies in the soccer federations.  Some, like Israel, are for cultural and geopolitical reasons while some (like Australia) are for competitive reasons.  The point is that the federations can be changed for a variety of reasons.  Why is this a factor?  Say FIFA reconsiders and decides Oceania needs to be beefed up as a federation; they put Australia back in Oceania.  Now Australia is eligible for the 2026 World Cup without a rules change.  Or what if India or the Middle Eastern nations show vast improvement prior to the 2018 World Cup, in anticipation of Qatar in 2022?  Would it make sense to add Japan and Australia to Oceania (since they are both Pacific islands)? Or maybe split Asia and merge half of it with Oceania?  All of these are unlikely scenarios, but a map change over the next five to ten years could damage another U.S. bid., especially if FIFA wants to give a World Cup to Australia or Japan.

5.  New Zealand or a CONCACAF island – Laugh all you want, but if a nation as small as Qatar can win why not New Zealand?  This is the same country that almost advanced from group stage in this year’s World Cup, although they did qualify against weaker competition.  Oceania has never had a World Cup and it would be a landmark event, something the Executive Committee obviously likes in a bid.  It has beautiful scenery and is economically advanced.  What about a more-open Cuba?  What a great way to show its reemergence to the international stage with a World Cup, either solo or jointly.  Is this reason so hard to believe?  Yes, both New Zealand and Cuba are odd choices, but they are both larger in land size and population by far than the 2022 host.

31 Responses to Why A 2026 U.S. World Cup is Not A Slam Dunk

  1. ElHierro says:

    At the rate things are going my money’s on Trinidad & Tobago for 2026.

  2. Vious says:

    If there is anything that we should have learned the last few picks, we should understand that the “best location” and “most prepared” bids rarely win

    The behind-the-scenes actions are what matters

    The US must do whatever it takes to get it done behind-the-scenes

  3. Bolacuadrada says:

    No need to rationalize in this one. I will not happen in the US unless we are able to bribe the FIFA cartel with more money and benefits that China will offer.

  4. sonofsaf says:

    New Zealand is the home of The Bushwhackers & The Sheepherders. That amount of fame and notoriety should be sufficient.

  5. Kasey in Oz says:

    regarding point #4. Map changes.
    this is I believe the most likely scenario. For years(Admittedly while we had to be apart of that farce of a confed- OFC) many Australians have been calling for the disbandment of OFC(.5 WC spot) and the admission of its former members into Asia. AFC(4.5 WC spots) already has 46 members, OFC currently has 11, the new federation already seems too large and the West Asian nations(we call it the Middle East in the news FYI)already resent being ‘ruled’ from AFC HQ in malaysia. Our solution is to split the new Asia into West Asia Football Confed(2.5 WC spots) and East Asia Football Confed(2.5 WC spots). Obviously Qatar would be in West Asia and our old friends in China would be in East Asia. Thus without changing the rules, FIFA would appease the West Asian nations by giving them more autonomy and free up an obvious favourite in China to bid for the 2026 World cup. Australia just would NOT bid against china…FFA doesn’t have the money that USSF has to bid at every available opportunity. We were relying on federal govt money to mount this bid, which has had the wonderful effect of getting your average Australian to write in to Newspapers decrying the extravagance of spending $46mil of taxpayers money on a ‘fringe’ sport like Soccer:( Not good publicity..thanks Uncle Sepp and Mohamed Bin Hammam

  6. Rilok says:

    Of course it’s not.
    Americans are slowly beginning to learn what we europeans have known for many decades now. That you’re lucky to get to see a World Cup come to your country during your lifetime. And if you get to see a second World Cup come to your country, then you are very, very old AND your country has soccer as its prime sport.
    My country ( France ) had to wait 60 years, Italy 56 years, Brazil ( brazil ! ) 64 years, Germany 32 years, England (england !) 46 years later is still waiting etc… FIFA loves charting new territory but hates going back too soon to a place it has already visited unless there’s a good reason ( Mexico 86 ). The USA, as a country where soccer is a minor sport and as a member of a minor confederation, won’t likely get a sniff at hosting again anytime soon.

  7. Ryan says:

    If not the US I’d love to go to Canada for a WC, but do they have a FIFA sanctioned first division? Does MLS count for America and Canada?

    • Lars says:

      Canada currently has a 3rd division, the Canadian Soccer League. It is expanding fairly rapidly and is expected to become a league similar to the CHL in hockey (which is a regionally based national league – Western Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League).

      The dream is to have a development league and a national trophy to be competed over in this type of setup.

  8. Dave C says:

    I know Australia is a part of “Asia” for competitive reasons, but I think it’s kind of unfair that it should be considered Asia when it comes to bidding for the WC (i.e. I think it’s crazy that they would be prevented from bidding for 2030 just because a country in the middle-east hosted 2022).

    • Kasey in Oz says:

      geographically we are part of Asia, historically( as a Commonwealth country we’ve always ‘felt’ different from Asia. However football allows us a common language to engage with some of our largest trading partners like Japan, China and Sth Korea:)
      I Love being part of Asia for the most part. The feeling that sometimes we’re getting screwed because we are a bit different will be there for a while, but I think the best way to combat that is to win. we need to become a power house in Asian football, a good performance in the Asian cup next month would be a good start. Oceania is a damned WOFTAM*, needs to be ended post haste. We had a perfect storm of conditions that led to our bid for 2022. A govt that weren’t kissing the dick of the all powerful Australian Football League and who recognised that only football could help it engage on the world stage, to the point where they threw in some coin to fund the bid. the FFA chairman not too old(77) and still energetic enough to criss-cross the globe to try to lad the bid, a successful National team that prevented us looking like a joke bid (I wonder who?) by allowing us to bid on the back of 2 qualifications and reasonable performances in 2006/2010. I have a gut feel we wont bid for the cup again until well past 2050 for a Cup in the 2nd half of this century. A lot of damage has been done to the image of football in Australia by the decisions taken by FeeFa (Pay a Fee for this, Pay a Fee for that!) and the perceptions such decision have raised:( We will survive, but its going to take a long time for our game to be robust enough to contemplate another challenge:(
      *Waste of F**king Time And Money

  9. Dave C says:

    Also, I think it’s a very good point that the rules might very well be changed before then. Remember, the “rotation policy” for WC bidding was only in place for a relatively brief time before they changed their mind.

  10. sergio lima says:

    I have information from a very strong source that if Brazil could not build all the gigantic stadiums they are planning to build for 2014, AND THEY ARE REALLY BEHIND, Canada and USA would take over the cup. And, it is very unlikely that US will get a World Cup by itself again. FIFA loves the idea of male soccer existing in America but they do not believe that MLS will ever be able to compete with none of the other leagues. It is FIFA’s goal to have the next North-American world cup on Canada and USA with the final in Canada and opening in USA. Canada would hold the final but would host less games on all other phases.

    • Seybold says:

      I suspect the USA is always the backup plan, or at least Plan C–one reason why it’s harder to win the bid straight up, and easier to give the tournament to countries that don’t yet have the facilities.

      I don’t think Canada yet has the capacity to host half of the tournament on short notice. Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto and Edmonton have 50,000-plus stadium capacity, but I think that’s about it. With more notice I suspect it would be no problem, but on short notice, the USA has so many big stadiums, so I suspect FIFA would opt for a 2/1 USA/Canada split, for cash cow purposes if nothing else.

      That said, mixing a hosting role for Canada would certainly correlate with FIFA’s “new territory” philosophy.

    • fernando says:

      i really think the 2014 world cup POSSIBLY WILL BE IN THE US cuz brazil is really behing and they will prefer the rio 2016 olympics so may be just be it will be USA 2014

  11. Simon Burke says:

    They have no rules. The fact they are now considering a January World Cup says how well they thought through 2022.
    They could easily change the rules to suit themselves. IF they have no competitive bids other than the US then who would the milk for publicity and cash ?

    I’d worry about Canada – Egypt for sure, China if the rules change and with 2030 almost certainly going to Arg/Uruguay, any nation that cant wait till 2034.

  12. joejoe says:

    The US nor any other large country should provide a bid until the selection process is opened up to the entire FIFA membership, which I believe is over 200, and not a selected few. The facts now show that the current selection system is flawed and ripe for chicanery.

  13. Domenico from Italy says:

    a joint USA – CANADA 2026 WC bid should be a strong one.
    what do you think?

    • yeah says:

      I concur. Replace 3 US cities from the 2022 bid with Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal. Or, replace 2 US cities and do a joint Vancouver/Seattle location because Seattle had two stadiums on the bid list.

      Indianapolis, San Diego and either Washington D.C. or Baltimore would get the axe if I was in charge. The East Coast already has Boston, NY/NJ, and Philadelphia as bid cities. There’s no need for both B-more and DC. SoCal already has 2 stadiums in LA, so there is no need for one in San Diego. Indy gets cut because Nashville and KC have bigger stadiums with grass. You could even cut one of the Florida locations instead of those 3. In fact, you could cut any of the locations except for NY and LA.

  14. Kevin Sutton says:

    I really think the 2026 World Cup is going to China. If you believe that FIFA is concerned first and foremost with their pocket books and expanding the game, and second with pulling off a successful event, with traditions and recent rule changes third… then there’s no reason to pick anywhere but China. Heck, it makes more sense than Qatar, or even Russia really.

    Australia would have made a fine choice, time and distance notwithstanding. Canada might be able to pull it off, but it wouldn’t happen if there was a lot of soccer specific infrastructure to build, (As a nation we’d probably rather try and use a lot of the existing stadia) and that seems to be a prerequisite for FIFA interest of late. The USA is attractive to generate a lot of money, but it seems less likely to increase long term growth like getting into China would.

  15. Tom says:

    Interesting article. China and Australia look like the most dangerous opponents for the US.
    Hopefully Chicago is back on board for the 2026 bid.

  16. Around the World says:

    I think Canada would be a great gold mine in the eyes of FIFA. Kind of like 1994 again. So all Canada has to renovate it’s existing stadiums for bigger capacity to meet standards and done.

    This idea inspired me so much…that I created a petition. Sign it please if you it in Canada -http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/worldcupcanada/

  17. Around the World says:

    *want a World Cup in Canada

  18. The original Tom says:

    Perhaps in 10 years when these bids go out, the world will be less extravagant and the idea of building “white elephants” (stadiums that have no use after the tournament) will not be as acceptable. Then Canada in 2030, with CFL stadiums and cool summers, could be great. Plus, they could imitate the Rugby World Cup and have one host with spill over sites in neighboring nations. Thus it could be Canada, with a few games in Seattle and Chicago or Boston.

    2026 should go to Europe. Rember much of Russia is in Asia. If Qatar is not too small, then I certainly think Belgium/Netherlands or Greece (with an extra site in Istanbul) or Scotland (with extra sites in Cardiff and Newcastle) can handle it. Not to mention England and Spain/Portugal.

  19. Random Commenter says:

    Try this: A remarkable revitalization and economic boom in Haiti spurred by international outreach and support; combined with an open/liberated Cuba, which when finally opened could quickly pick back up where they left off in ’50s economically; AND throw in the D.R. and Puerto Rico? All that prime, un-used real estate goes towards making soccer stadiums, hotels, resorts, and helping the local communities by spurring advanced and pragmatic solutions to infrastructure needs for the event. FIFA loves that, it’s what they’re all about: be that fairy that grants happiness and prosperity around the globe, using it’s magical wand named “Football”.

    Anyways, maybe if the US can pull something off like that (i.e. find a way to revitalize our own cities, build new cutting edge stuff EVERYWHERE in the country, and make Americans go ape-shit for soccer), FIFA will consider us for 2026 over China. Of course, if China gets their act together before us, we’re never gonna get that bid. My prediction is for anytime after 2030.

  20. fernando says:

    c’mon USA WILL DEFINITLY HOST THE 2026 FIFA WOLRD CUP!! i have 3 reasons:
    1. i dont think china will be the host beacuase qatar is asian too so i dont think they will be so stupid
    2. concacaf will be the one so: canada is richer than us but they will focus on toronto olympics for 2020 or 2024, mexico is a violent nation also they dont have enough money, they hosted it twice and come on germany, italy and france hosted it 2 I DONT WANT A WORLD CUP IN MEXICO
    3. they were runners up in 2022 and the karma thing is real: london will host 2012 olympics so they cant be for 2018 wc, paris was the biggest looser in 2012 but they will host euro 2016, spain lost this time but i’m sure they will get maddrid 2020 olympics, so usa lost in chicago 2016, 2022 but they will get it!!!!!! USA 2026, ENGLAND 2030, AUSTRALIA 2034

    • fernando says:

      probably the us bis will include new roof in the staiums XD

    • Africa says:

      I don’t know why everyone seems to see that 2026 is settled among
      either US, Canada or China. Why are you ALL forgetting about
      Africa? When South Africa won the bid to host 2010 W, there were
      other nations competing with it. Some of them had really good bids,
      and it would only make sense that the World Cup should return to
      Africa after 16 years of absence…the US already hosted once, so
      it’s not fair it should be hosting it again anytime soon,
      especially given the fact that it’s NOT a football nation, and the
      1994 WC has failed to turn it into one, so why bother? Canada would
      be a better choice than the US and China should not be allowed to
      host it right after Qatar. If anything, let’s hope Qatar fails to
      meet the targets in time and China takes over 2022!! Anyway, I
      believe 2026 MUST go to Africa!

  21. chris says:

    Well u do bring up a good point. The precedent has now been set by
    FIFA for a tiny nation to host a world cup so the argument that a
    cuba or a new zealand is too small doesn’t sit. Of course we all
    know its about money anyway. And with that in mind don’t be
    surprised if FIFA DO change the rules regrading geographical
    eligibility by the time the bidding comes around. I think China are
    the dark horse to host this event, don’t be in the least bit
    surprised if they do. I have a sneaky feeling they just might. If
    the rules dont change between now and then, on merit you would have
    to say that Canada would deserve it as they’ve never hosted it
    before. Therotically the priority should always be with a nation
    that has never hosted before. Anyways.. it’ll be an interesting
    one!

  22. Brian says:

    I say Singapore 2026

  23. Cam says:

    I wish it came here

  24. MLS Troll says:

    Is FIFA ignoring the U.S. application to host the World Cup because
    of the lack of a professional league in America?

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