KENYA BROWN - Sunday, May 15, 2016
Could the CONCACAF rivals be making a joint bid for the 2026 World Cup?
The United States and Mexico have been adversaries on the field for quite a long time, but now the two sides could be joining forces to win right to host the 2026 World Cup.
According to a report from ESPN, soccer officials from both countries met on the sidelines of the FIFA Congress in Mexico City, Mexico, to discuss the idea, and more discussions are to be held in later months.
"We have spoken to our Mexican counterparts and are very open to the idea of a joint bid. It could be a positive move for the game in both countries, and it's also a very exciting proposition for FIFA. We will now go away and formulate a timetable for further discussions. But whatever happens, we will bid for the 2026 World Cup - either jointly or we will go it alone," said John Motta, a U.S. Soccer board member.
Mexican Football Federation president Decio de Maria put forward the idea of a joint bid to FIFA president Gianni Infantino, and it appears that the head of soccer's world governing body has put support behind it.
While the idea of a joint bid might be backed by Infantino, and the FIFA Council's decision to once again allow joint bids, it does have its detractors.
Former U.S. national team defender Alexi Lalas, speaking prior to the opening of the FIFA Congress, said the decision for the host of the 2026 World Cup is a no-brainer as the United States is the only choice.
"It's not even a battle, it's nothing: it has to be in the United States. Nobody will do it better, it will make the most money in the history of World Cups, it will be coming to a culture that loves soccer and it just makes all the sense in the world," he said.
There has also been talk of the United States and Canada possibly putting together a joint bid, but Lalas shot down that idea as well.
"No, why should we share it with Canada or anybody else when we can host it just as well by ourselves? It's nothing against them - we're a benevolent country - but in this case I think it should be the United States and the United States alone," he said.
The United States hosted its first World Cup back in 1994, which broke the average attendance record and set the mark for the highest total attendance. Mexico has hosted two editions of the tournament in 1970 and 1986.
If the two countries win the bid, it will be the first time that the World Cup has been co-hosted since Japan and South Korea in 2002.
While the U.S. can certainly manage hosting the World Cup on its own, FIFA sees a joint bid as a way of making up for the revenue it has lost since the scandal that saw several officials arrested and others removed from positions within the organization. Infantino is thinking more of the commercial potential rather than whether the country could have the infrastructure ready before the tournament. This was a problem that plagued Brazil in the run up to the 2014 World Cup as stadiums were still be prepared mere weeks before its start.
As with the 1994 World Cup, preparations would not be too much of a hassle for U.S. Soccer as stadiums and other infrastructure are already in place. In addition, there would be a greater demand from cities to host games as places like Seattle, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Santa Clara have large stadiums to bring in the spectators. Even Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor would be competing for a piece of the action based on the record crowd (109,318) it drew for the International Champions Cup game between Real Madrid and Manchester United in 2014.
There is no problem with countries making joint bids for tournaments, but U.S. Soccer had better make sure that if they go through with this idea that their partner holds up their end or else we could be seeing the same problems that occurred in the last World Cup.