By Collin Giuliani// Staff Writer
On April 10, the United States announced that they would be submitting a bid to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup, alongside Canada and Mexico. After failing to win their bid for the 2022 World Cup, the United States is looking to host the World Cup for the second time ever and for the first time since 1994. If this bid succeeds, then it would be the first time in the history of the World Cup that three countries co-host the event.
The announcement that the United States would be bidding on this World Cup alongside Canada and Mexico was met with lukewarm reception. In the end, did the United States need Canada and Mexico alongside them to host this World Cup?
For starters, this World Cup will be the first World Cup to consist of 48 teams. Earlier in 2017, FIFA announced that they would be expanding the field by 50 percent, growing the tournament from 32 teams to 48 teams. In a 48-team tournament, this means that there will be 80 games played; under the 32-team tournament format, there were 64 games played.
With more games, this means that more stadiums will be required to host the tournament. In the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, there were 12 stadiums that hosted games. Under an 80-game format, when using per-game averages, this means that roughly 15 or 16 stadiums will be used to host games during the 2026 World Cup. FIFA requires that all stadiums must seat a minimum of 40,000 spectators. Mexico currently has just seven stadiums that meet this requirement, and only one that holds more than 57,000. Canada has just four stadiums that meet this requirement, and none that hold more than 57,000.
The United States, on the other hand, will have over 139 stadiums that meet this requirement by 2026, and will have 83 stadiums that hold more than 57,000. In 1994, the United States hosted the World Cup, and averaged 68,991 fans per match, which remains a record to this day. Only one stadium in Mexico (Estadio Azteca in Mexico City) or Canada will be able to meet this capacity number. Did the United States really need the help of Canada or Mexico to host this tournament?
Of the three nations hosting this tournament under this proposal, the United States would benefit the most. The United States would host 60 games, while Canada and Mexico would each host 10. Additionally, the United States would host every game from the quarterfinals on, including the final match. However, especially considering the political climate and tensions between the United States and Mexico, this creates a logistical nightmare for traveling. There is a chance that a team could play a game in all three nations at some point, which not only takes a toll on the players, but takes a toll on the fans.
Sports Illustrated writer Grant Wahl stated, “the shared bid prevents Mexico [from] competing against the United States to be the host of a tournament that very likely seems headed to CONCACAF Champions League (North America) for the first time since 1994.” However, why would the United States join forces with Mexico solely so that Mexico couldn’t submit a competing bid? The United States had nothing to be worried about with Mexico. Mexico would need to construct or renovate more than eight or nine stadiums just to meet the qualifications to host the tournament. Mexico has also hosted the World Cup twice before (1970 and 1986), and no country has ever hosted the tournament three times before. If it came down to the United States, a country that already has the infrastructure in place to host the tournament, set an attendance record the last time they hosted the World Cup in 1994, and has only hosted once before, and Mexico, a country that would need to spend billions to get the proper stadiums for the tournament and has hosted twice before, FIFA would likely choose the United States.
Even if the United States is getting 75 percent of the 2026 World Cup, it feels like an anticlimactic deal to host the World Cup alongside Canada and Mexico. Canada and Mexico will drag down the average attendance for the tournament, will take games away from the United States, and will make the tournament a logistical nightmare from a traveling perspective for both the players and the fans. The United States is looking like the favorite to host the World Cup, or at the very least, most of it.