By JACK BELL
After nearly 40 years in the World Cup wilderness, Canada could have a guaranteed route to playing in the 2026 tournament if a plan being pushed by the new leader of CONCACAF is submitted to and then earns approval by FIFA.
Victor Montagliani, a Canadian who was elected president of CONCACAF last May, is preparing a joint bid to be submitted to FIFA by the end of the year. The plan is for the United States, Canada and Mexico to serve as hosts for the 2026 World Cup, which will be expanded to 48 countries and 80 games.
“Canada, the U.S. and Mexico are aiming for a joint bid, the idea has been around for a while, discussions are continuing and it is a very exciting proposition if it comes to fruition,” Montagliani told The Guardian. “We have had nothing but positive remarks about it and it is a very strong sign of what football can do to bring countries together.”
Montagliani is preparing for this weekend’s annual regional conference in Aruba. CONCACAF now sends three automatic qualifiers to the World Cup, with a fourth entering a playoff. An expanded World Cup could give the region five or six teams in the finals. A host nation (or nations) would be included in that figure.
While officials at U.S. Soccer failed in their attempts to land either the 2018 or 2022 World Cups, much has changed in FIFA and CONCACAF (after allegations of corruption that led the American government to indict soccer executives from around the globe). Now, with the election of Donald J. Trump as the U.S. president and his evolving immigration policies and promise to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, there are worries that the U.S. could be dealt out.
Montagliani told the Guardian that the sport has to “rise above” politics.
“It behoves football and leaders of football to deal with it and rise above it,” he said.
Though Montagliani said a joint, three-country bid would be a good “fit,” he acknowledged that no decision has been made, and probably will not be made until the end of the year. FIFA is not expected to chose a host(s) until May 2020.