The United States launched its bid to co-host the 2026 World Cup with Mexico and Canada on Monday after gaining the support of President Donald Trump to pursue soccer’s showpiece amid heightened regional political tensions.
Trump derided Mexico as a source of rapists and criminals in his campaign and has vowed to build a wall on the southern border. Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto recently canceled a trip to Washington over Trump’s insistence that Mexico pay for the wall.
US Soccer President Sunil Gulati was asked about the impact of Trump’s policy toward Mexicans on relations between the countries as he presented the bid alongside his counterparts from Mexico and Canada in New York.
“We have very specifically addressed this with the president,” Gulati said of the Trump controversies. “He is fully supportive of the joint bid, encouraged the joint bid, and is especially pleased with the fact Mexico is participating in the joint bid.”
The proposal for the first World Cup with the field expanded from 32 to 48 teams is that the U.S. hosts all the games from the quarterfinals. The U.S. would get 60 games while Mexico and Canada would have 10 each.
“We don’t believe sport can solve all the issues in the world but, especially with what’s going on in the world today, we believe this is a hugely positive signal and symbol of what we can do together in unifying people, especially in our three countries,” Gulati said.
The North American nations are seeking to bring the World Cup back to the region for the first time since 1994 when the U.S. was the sole host.
The U.S., Mexico and Canada all expect to qualify automatically — as the last co-hosts South Korea and Japan did in 2002 — but the FIFA Council has the final decision. CONCACAF is set to have at least six finalists under the new format.
The hosting rights are due to be awarded by FIFA in 2020.
Africa and South America are eligible to bid but no countries from those continents have publicly declared an interest. Argentina and Uruguay are keen on co-hosting in 2030 to mark the 100-year anniversary of the event that was first staged in Uruguay.
FIFA rules currently prevent 2026 bidders from Europe and Asia because Russia is staging the World Cup in 2018 and Qatar has the showpiece in 2022. The U.S. participated in the 2018 and 2022 bidding contest but lost in a hotly disputed vote that sparked corruption investigations.
Rob Harris is at www.twitter.com/RobHarris and www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports