Okay, FIFA. You’ve visited the cities, you’ve heard the pitches, you’ve been to the stadiums and in some cases, you’ve even been to games there.
What everyone wants to know now is, of course, who’s going to host. And which games. And when.
While we all know what we’d like to say to FIFA (cue the chants of “Come Play HERE!”), what is less clear is WHEN the announcement will come.
It seemed like forever since the United Bid of Mexico, Canada and the USA was awarded the 2026 World Cup. (In fact, it was June 2018 which yes, all things considered, does seem like an eternity). FIFA was gearing up to do its inspections and, well, then came 2020. And it was a long time until we saw movement again, this past September, in fact, when the news broke that FIFA officials had begun touring cities and visiting venues.
Inside World Football said that FIFA had developed a two-part schedule for its city and venue visits. The first round included visits by a delegation led by CONCACAF President and FIFA Vice-President Victor Montagliani, that traveled to nine U.S. candidate city visits in nine days. Those cities were Boston, Nashville, Atlanta, Orlando, Washington DC, Baltimore, New York/New Jersey, Philadelphia and Miami. The remaining eight US bidding cities (Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle), the three in Mexico (Guadalajara, Mexico City and Monterrey) and two in Canada (Edmonton and Toronto) were part of a second round, to be visited by the end of November.
And all this has concluded. The most recent news on the FIFA website notes that the organization wrapped up its last round of visits on November 22.
According to the website, the visits finally took place after multiple virtual exchanges over the last two years and provided the opportunity for the FIFA delegation to meet with the candidate host city representatives and local stakeholders to discuss key topics such as venue management, infrastructure and sustainability as well as commercial, legal and legacy matters. The FIFA experts also inspected essential infrastructure, such as stadiums, training facilities and potential FIFA Fan Festival™ venues.
A total of 17 U.S. cities that were visited as potential hosts for the event - the first due to feature 48 teams. And the fact that not all those cities will be hosting that makes for more than a little tension. In July, Canadian host candidate city Montreal withdrew itself from the bid. But that’s far from the only drama that has plagued the process. The Guardian notes, “There were a couple of early upsets: no Chicago – among the biggest and most alluring cities in North America, not to mention the home of the US Soccer Federation – or Vancouver, the host of the 2015 Women’s World Cup final [mentioned at one point as a possible substitute for Montreal]. However, some city leaders have been unwilling to meet FIFA’s onerous financial and legal conditions.”
But setting aside all the politics that seem to surround any big site selection process (most particularly FIFA’s), what is the next step?
Well, the delegation has returned to FIFA HQ in Lausanne, where, the site state, “a thorough assessment will follow” of all cities and venues.
Ultimately, FIFA says it expects to “finalize the selection process by Q1/Q2 2022.”
Note that it didn’t say it intends to announce the cities by that time. However, The Stadium Business quotes Colin Smith, FIFA chief tournament and events officer, as saying a decision on the successful North American cities is expected sometime toward the end of March or early April – at the latest “by April of next year.”
(But does that mean an announcement or just a decision? Hard to discern at this point).
Smith said it is likely 16 cities will be selected for the 80 games. That's better than the previous reports of 11, anyway.
“Certainly, the decision is getting harder and harder with every stop, which I guess is a good problem to have,” Smith is quoted as having told reporters. “Ultimately, it’s a bit of a jigsaw puzzle of all these different areas. To break down the magic of a World Cup is obviously incredibly difficult so the only way to do it is really to look at all the constituent groups.”
SDM will continue to follow this developing issue but in the meantime, here are some updates on other FIFA news. As for the rumor that FIFA might move its headquarters to the USA, we haven’t seen any updates. Maybe it is just a rumor. However, the highly controversial issue of FIFA wanting to move World Cup play to be held every two years rather than every four seems to have taken a step forward.
According to the site Remezcla, the soccer federations at the FIFA Congress have voted to look into the possibility of holding the World Cup every two years.
However, the site notes, “Before everyone goes to their corners to battle it out, it’s important to note that this vote is just to look into the matter further. The vote passed with 166 in favor and 22 against.”