On April 10 the U.S., Canada, and Mexico announced they will be submitting a joint bid to co-host the 2026 FIFA World Cup. If successful, this would be the first World Cup with three co-hosting countries, and only the second joint World Cup after the 2002 tournament was co-hosted by Japan and South Korea. The bid allocates Canada and Mexico ten games each and the U.S. 60, including all quarterfinal and semifinal games and the Final game. This article will take a look at the advantages U.S., Mexico, and Canada have in winning the bid for 2026.
One advantage the U.S. joint bid has is in 2026 the World Cup will increase the number of teams participating. The current World Cup format includes 32 teams playing a combined 64 games. However, in 2026 the format will include an expanded 48 teams playing a combined 80 games. Due to this new format, a joint bid seems appealing because the large number of games can be shared amongst co-hosting countries with no one country taking on too large a burden. In the 2014 Brazil World Cup, Brazil didn’t have enough large capacity stadiums to effectively host so they had to spend $3 billion to build 12 stadiums all with 40,000+ seating capacity. Now take into account that there will be an extra sixteen games played in the 2016 World Cup. A country hosting on their own would take a lot of risk investing in stadiums to be built for the World Cup. With the U.S. joint bid, the three countries can lower the risk by sharing their venues. Seven MLS stadiums in the U.S. and Canada are above 40,000 seat capacity, all 32 NFL stadiums are above this capacity, and Mexico has seven stadiums above this capacity. This means that U.S., Canada, and Mexico are unlikely to have to build any new stadiums. No other country in the world has the number of large capacity stadiums the World Cup would need without spending billions of dollars to build new ones.
Another advantage the joint bid has is that U.S. and Mexico have had great success hosting World Cups.
Mexico has the fourth highest average attendances in World Cup history, averaging just over 50,000 fans per game in 1970. The U.S. has the highest total attendance and average attendance of any World Cup with 3.6 million fans in total attending games, even though the format was only 52 games, and averaged almost 69,000 fans per game in 1994. This is a huge incentive for FIFA because they know they will see high attendance numbers meaning more revenue in ticket, food, and apparel sales. The popularity of soccer in the U.S. has also grown significantly in the twenty-three years since their last hosted World Cup. The amount of Americans watching the World Cup on TV increased 19%, the most of any country, between the 2006 and 2010 World Cup. A larger popularity implies even larger attendance numbers than 1994.
The final advantage U.S., Mexico, and Canada have the limited competition for bids from other countries. Bids do not need to be submitted until December 2018 with the winning bid not being announced until May 2020. Each country in the International Soccer Federation receives one vote. There is a total of 211 voting countries with Europe having 55 members, Africa 54, Asia 46, CONCACAF 35, Oceania 11, and South America 10. The U.S. joint bid is the only official bid submitted so far. Because Russia is hosting in 2018 and Qatar is hosting in 2022, FIFA announced that countries in Europe and Asia cannot bid for 2026. That leaves potential bids to CONCACAF (U.S., Mexico, Canada, Central America, and Caribbean), South America, Africa, and Oceania. CONCACAF is supporting the joint bid and no other countries in CONCACAF will submit a bid.
Another competitor could come in Colombia, who is also rumored to submit a bid. Colombia was awarded a bid in 1974 to host in 1986 but later lost the bid in 1983 due to financial situations. Due to this past history and the fact that Colombia will most likely need to spend close to the $3 billion Brazil had to in order to build stadiums, it is unlikely Colombia will be a serious threat to the joint bid. The only other South American countries rumored to place a bid are Uruguay and Argentina together with a joint bid but to host in 2030, the 100th anniversary of the first ever World Cup which was hosted by Uruguay. The OFC (Oceania) is not going to receive a bid because their largest nation, Australia, joined the AFC (Asia) in 2006. The OFC currently consists of New Zealand and several other small pacific islands, none of which have the land capacity to host a World Cup. So this leaves only the CAF (Africa) which is the second largest Soccer Federation behind Europe with 54 nations. A CAF nation could only be a threat to win the bid if all CAF nations voted for one single nation and it received some considerable votes from other federation’s countries.
U.S., Mexico, Canada joint bid is the clear front-runner to win the 2026 World Cup. Mexico and the U.S. have a history of highly attended World Cup games and currently no other formal bids have been submitted. In addition, since 2026 will be the first World Cup with 48 teams, a joint hosted tournament will be appealing to FIFA. So be patient soccer fans. Big things are coming to the States.
Sports Analytics and Business, Indiana University
Brazil spending information courtesy of Business Insider
USA-Mexicao-Canada Joint Bid information courtesy of ESPN FC