Word from Canada is that the CSA want to bid for the 2026 World Cup. Just for fun, let's take a look at how likely this would be, especially in the face of rumors of a joint US-Mexico bid.
To start, FIFA has abandoned the old continental rotation system in favor of a 'let's not allow it to be in Europe every other cycle' model. What this means for 2026 is that Europe (Russia) and Asia (Qatar) will be out of the running to host the event, leaving North America, South America, Africa, and (technically) Oceania able to put in bids. For the sake of realism, I'm going to drop the pretense that Oceania has a snowball's chance in hell and move on to the other three.
South America. When South America is eligible and Europe is not, they have to be considered the most likely to win the bid. That said, there's an opinion floating around that the 100th anniversary of the first World Cup (Uruguay 1930) should head back to South America. Uruguay 2030 (or Uruguay/Argentina 2030 even) sounds like a plausible, sound idea, so I'm going to run with it, just pencil them in for the centenary, and drop them from contention for 2026.
Africa. Things might change over the course of 12 years, but not enough can change before the bidding process to consider any African countries other than South Africa, Morocco, and maybe Ghana. South Africa hosted it very recently, so they're out. Morocco has some of the infrastructure necessary and a few ok stadiums in a few decent sized markets, but nothing World Cup caliber (unless you consider Qatar World Cup caliber). Same goes for Ghana, except they're less ready. Either way, it doesn't look like a strong bid would come out of Africa. Which brings us to….
North America. Congratulations! CONCACAF has been awarded a World Cup by default (and a lot of assumptions)! Looking around CONCACAF, it's easy to see that there are only three countries with enough largish markets and either money or stadiums (or both) to host a World Cup: The US, Canada, and Mexico.
Rumor on the street has it that Mexico would rather pair up with Uncle Sam than have to get the World Cup on their own (wouldn't be the first time). An equal-footing joint bid is probably a bad idea, though, an the USSF has no need to tie its bid's fate to Mexico. Even if Gulati did have a reason, though, he shouldn't. If Mexico hosted 2026, they would become the first country to have hosted 3 World Cups. I'm sure FIFA has no desire to bestow our southern rivals with that great honor (for whatever reason), so one has to think that Mexico is out of the running for the time being.
That would leave the US and Canada, mano-a-mano. Obviously if we're talking straight up competing bids, the US has the upper hand in big markets & huge stadiums. But we also know that no one loves us in international soccer…so advantage Canada. However, the Canadian National Team is a joke at the moment and they would have to build half of the stadiums from scratch in markets that would never be able to put them to productive use again. So rather than each putting together bids with serious flaws, how about we do something new?
I think we can all agree that the huge distances at work in both the US and Canada are detrimental to the total amount of time traveling fans can spend in North America (you need more $$$ to get between host cities on top of the high-ish cost of getting to the continent) and detrimental to the party atmosphere (Germany 2006 was SO MUCH FUN because every German city had traveling fans and lively streets because of it). I've bandied about the idea of a US region bidding for the World Cup before, and I know the idea of city clusters is popular with US fans. We have enough regions that could be great World Cup hosts on their own (the Northeast or Atlantic Seaboard, the Midwest, the Pacific Coast….Florida, Texas, California, and the Northeast Corridor as collections of regions), but we still don't have a lot of international support. So how about a regional/clustered joint bid with Canada?
As I see it, there are two options: 1. Canada is the primary host and a few nearby US cities supplement their bid, or 2. a 1-to-1 partnership with a few clusters, some of which overlap borders and some of which are in one country or the other.
Give games to all the Canadian cities that could easily be hosts, supplement with a few cross-border US cities, and then pick between the remaining too small Canadian cities and the further afield American cities.
Guaranteed Canadian cities (4) (big cities that already have decent stadiums):
Probable Canadian cities (3) (big cities that don't yet have large stadiums):
Guaranteed American cities (3) (location, stadiums):
Potential supporting Canadian cities:
Winnipeg (OK size, but very isolated)
Halifax (isolated and smaller, but in the cultural heart of Canada…nostalgic/nationalist pick)
Potential supporting American cities:
Portland (complete the trifecta…a bit further away than the others, though)
Boston? (culturally related to Atlantic Canada, big stadium)
Minneapolis? (as close as you can get to Winnipeg, plus big itself, with a big stadium, and near-ish a lot of people in the Midwest)
New Orleans (this is a fantasy, after all!)
This would make 10 cities between the guaranteeds and probables with 2 spaces left for the potential markets to make their cases for why they would be needed and should be chosen. Easy enough, right?
Pick a few regional clusters to host groups. Find 2 clusters that transcend the border and 1 cluster for each of the hosts (or thereabout). Try to minimize travel distance from the solely US cluster to the other clusters.
Canadian cluster (3):
Cross-border 1 (3):
Cross-border 2 (3):
USA cluster (3):
For a total of 12 cities!
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What does everyone think? Are my assumptions in the beginning unreasonable? (I know they're big assumptions.) Would a solo US bid be as unlikely to garner international FIFA support as I seem to think? Would a solo Canadian bid be as unrealistic as I think? And finally, how would you format a World Cup 2026 bid based on clusters and/or a partnership with the Canucks?