FIFA have approved a fast-tracked bidding process to determine the host for the 2026 World Cup, with 93% of the 209 members voting on Thursday in favour of the decision at the governing body’s congress in Bahrain, reports The Guardian.
Other countries have until 11 August to express interest in hosting the World Cup and must meet a list of FIFA’s technical specifications by March 2018. The decision to select any bidders will take place on 13 June 2018.
Previously, the final decision had been scheduled for May 2020 under the four-stage bidding process announced by Fifa this time last year.
The United States, Mexico and Canada announced a joint bid for the 2026 tournament last month at a news conference in lower Manhattan. If the ambitious three-nation endeavor is successful, it would be the first time a World Cup was co-hosted by multiple countries since the 2002 tournament in South Korea and Japan.
Under the proposal, the US will host 60 games, including every match from the quarter-finals onwards, with Mexico and Canada splitting the remaining 20 fixtures equally.
The United States last hosted the World Cup in 1994. That tournament was a 24-team, 52-match event that still holds the attendance record (with nearly 3.6 million spectators), despite a subsequent expansion of the format to 32 teams and 64 matches. Mexico previously hosted the tournament in 1970 and 1986, while Canada hosted the women’s World Cup in 2015.
Challengers to the US-led proposal are scarce with Europe and Asia ineligible to bid after being awarded, respectively, the 2018 and 2022 tournaments. Morocco and Algeria have reportedly mulled official bids for 2026 and could challenge the North American bid should either broker an adequate voting alliance. Europe has 55 members in the Congress, Africa 54, Asia 46, Concacaf 35, Oceania 11 and South America 10.
But North America’s preexisting infrastructure, anchored by a fleet of new NFL stadiums built over the past two decades that meet Fifa specifications, make the US-led bid the prohibitive favorite.
“We have the luxury of being able to pick from stadiums and cities,” the US Soccer president, Sunil Gulati, said last month. “And given what’s happened in the last World Cups and some of the Olympic Games, the thought of building sports facilities that don’t have a long term use is not one that’s particularly inviting for anyone.
“So in all of our cases, we have stadiums that have exist for professional teams or other events. We think that’s that huge advantage not just for us, but for Fifa or the IOC, that infrastructure that’s in place or developed for the NFL or for Liga MX, is a far better solution than spending hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars on stadiums that don’t have use beyond the tournament.”