It’s always a risky move to propose something that’s never been done before. On one hand, this proposal could be the perfect move for three countries with booming soccer scenes. But issues of game location and cross-country traveling could spell defeat for the young bid.
This isn’t the first time that multiple countries have proposed to host a World Cup together — South Korea and Japan successfully
co-hosted the tournament in 2002. But this joint bid would keep teams on the same continent and wouldn’t force fans and players alike to make long jaunts across any bodies of water to watch games.
Instead, the majority of the tournament would take part in cities across the United States, with 60 games hosted in America and the remaining 20 split up between Mexico and Canada. The United States is fresh off hosting the 2016 Copa America Centenario, which set records with a total of nearly 1.5 million fans attending the event’s 32 games.
Canada, meanwhile, saw similar success in hosting the 2015 Women’s World Cup, which broke records for overall attendance. While the host country earned some vitriol over aspects of the tournament — particularly from fans over the use of turf instead of grass — most of the issues that Canada faced would be smoothed over with the extra funding and attention of a men’s championship.
In fact, all three of these countries have set records for attendance in hosting different international soccer championships in the last decade, with Mexico playing host to the U-17 FIFA World Cup in 2011. With all of that success combined into a single package, this bid already seems like a sure thing.
Under the surface, there are still a few questions to be answered.
There is, of course, the typical slew of concerns to run through whenever a bid is proposed. How much will this cost? How will infrastructure need to be altered? How many new stadiums will have to be built? But from there, the broader implications of attempting to host a major sporting event in three separate countries begins to show the cracks in this plan.
The main issue? Travel.
Although the two soccer federations are happily participating in the creation of this bid, the relationship between the United States and Mexico isn’t at its peak currently. Regardless of whether the current political climate will have calmed down by the 2026 World Cup, the challenge of organizing travel options for massive groups of fans is tripled with the prospect of three host countries.
The countries might be able to strike a deal that would allow a temporary visa option for easy travel for teams, families and fans to move across the borders. But the added hassle could result in a drop in attendance at the games based in Mexico and Canada, with fans deciding to only invest in the bulk of the games hosted by the United States.
This would also raise another vital question of co-hosting — who gets what? If the United States is hosting the majority of the games, will Mexico and Canada split up the opening ceremony and the final match? Or will the United States remain the central hub of the event, with Mexico and Canada getting the short end of the stick with smaller games?
These are questions that haven’t been answered yet by the bid or by any of the federation presidents. While the location of these games might not seem significant, they actually point to the nature of the bid as a whole. If the United States retains the hosting privileges of the most important games, this essentially becomes another bid for the Americans after their 2022 proposition lost out to a controversial Qatar bid.
The only difference is the additional support and funding of Canada and Mexico, both of which could be convincing to the
powers-that-be at FIFA. For starters, FIFA desperately needs to make money after recent scandals lost the organization millions. The World Cup is a moneymaker, and the United States is a perfect host in a region where soccer culture is rapidly expanding.
Cooperation between the three federations is also favorable for FIFA as a whole, as it reflects a more cohesive worldwide entity that fits into the new image that FIFA President Gianni Infantino is hoping to cultivate. Infantino has been vocal about his hopes to see more shared World Cup bids moving forward.
Ultimately, however, this bid could serve as a win-win for everyone involved. With its team on a recent upswing, the United States would gain the bulk of hosting duties for the biggest event in soccer, helping to add to the momentum of the sport’s rise in American culture. Canada would earn an automatic bid to the World Cup, which the team has only qualified for once in its history, while Mexico would get the chance to prove itself as a host through a manageable amount of games.
FIFA, meanwhile, would have a surefire opportunity to rebuild the World Cup after the scandals of past bids.
The ultimate decision is still a long way off, but the prospect of filling a home stadium with the “I Believe” chant in a World Cup game is something that should excite any American soccer fan.
Julia Poe is a sophomore studying print and digital journalism. She is also the sports editor of the Daily Trojan. Her column, “Poe’s Perspective,” runs on Wednesdays.