The dust has settled from the FIFA elections. Now, it’s time to stir up something new.
One of FIFA’s first actions in the wake of the raid on its Switzerland headquarters and the subsequent arrest of seven officials (not to mention the decision of Sepp Blatter to step down) was to put the brakes on site selection for the 2026 World Cup.
Now, with a new president, Gianni Infantino – and sweeping reforms having been passed – it’s time to head back to the drawing board. And, said, Infantino, there should be no hesitation.
"It is fairly urgent," Infantino said at a media event on his first day on the job in Zurich. "Definitely, I think we need to launch the bidding process in the next couple of months, probably before the FIFA [Congress] in May."
An article in ESPNFC noted that Infantino has promised the bid process will begin within 90 days of his arrival in office.
According to Soccer America Daily, Infantino also denied promising the 2026 World Cup to the United States, although it is reported that support from the U.S. helped to turn the election in Infantino’s favor over Sheikh Salman of Bahrain. The U.S. controversially lost out to Qatar in 2010 for the right to host the 2022 World Cup.
Theoretically, at least, Infantino's FIFA has an interest in having the 2026 World Cup be awarded to the USA – or so the pundits say. Awarding the 2026 World Cup to the U.S. would eliminate all speculation about removing the 2022 World Cup from Qatar. Additionally, it is imperative that Infantino and the new regime reassure potential sponsors that being a World Cup partner is a positive association; in fact, several major sponsors detached themselves from FIFA in the weeks and months following the crisis and Infantino would like to woo them back.
FIFA's restructure is among wide-ranging reforms that will guard against corruption in Zurich, and should be adopted by national federations globally by 2018, according to ESPNFC.
Soccer America Daily notes that a short bid process would make it almost impossible for any other nation to present a bid proposal to challenge the USA, which has a slew of readily available mega-stadiums at its disposal, many of which will see action this summer as part of Copa Centenario Americano.
Of course, getting the World Cup into the USA is by no means a done deal, particularly considering the enormous role U.S. authorities played in cracking down on FIFA; however, the chess pieces may align themselves in America’s favor since few if any countries eligible to bid (all but Asian members) will be able to mount a serious bid, especially if it's for a 40-team World Cup, as Infantino has proposed.