As per reports from the Sports Business Journal, FIFA World Cup COO and the top executive overseeing the 2026 event, Colin Smith is leaving the governing body.

Smith’s departure has been confirmed by FIFA, with Deputy COO Heimo Schirgi filling in the void on an interim basis.

As per FIFA’s memo, Smith is vacating his position to take on new professional challenges.

Smith oversaw Russia and Qatar World Cups

Since joining FIFA in 2015, Smith played a key role in handling the 2018 and 2022 Men’s World Cup in Russia and Qatar while also overseeing the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France.

He previously held positions in UEFA and the UEA Pro League Committee.

His departure comes as a blow to the US, Canada, and Mexico Federations as he had a hands-on approach in the execution of FIFA’s major events. The report states that during the World Cups that took prior to this summer’s event in Australia and New Zealand, local federations played a major role in the planning and operation of the events.

However, under the new rule, FIFA is establishing fully owned local subsidiaries in the host regions. Smith would have led the local subsidiary for the 2026 World Cup based out of Miami, Florida.

2026 poses challenges

The 2026 World Cup is a massive challenge for FIFA logistically, given it is set to be held in three countries. Moreover, it’s also the first World Cup that will have the new 48-team format.

Smith had played an important role in sorting out the 16 host cities last summer, each with its own local organization. The report also states that FIFA will announce in the next few months which specific cities will host the semifinals and the final of the showcase event.

The host cities will also be informed where the International Broadcast Center will be located with Dallas and Atlanta being muted as the two options.

Photo credit: IMAGO / Ulmer