Leaders In Football: Liga MX Boss Calls For U.S./Mexico World Cup In '26.
Liga MX President Decio De Maria said that the U.S. and Mexico should mount a joint bid to co-host the 2026 World Cup. “I hope we can go together,” De Maria told an audience at Wednesday's "Changing Times: World Football in Transition" session of the Leaders in Football Summit in Chelsea. However, U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati, also a FIFA exec committee member, said any notion of the countries co-hosting 2026 was “premature.” De Maria’s idea is for Mexico to host a handful of games, with the bulk being played in the U.S., pointing to the countries’ social and geographical ties. However, Gulati said the U.S. bidding team for the 2022 World Cup was still upset about the decision to award it to Qatar, citing it as “controversial” and that it was still undecided if the U.S. would bid for future World Cups.
U.S. MAY SEEK COMPENSATION: Gulati also added there had been no decision as to whether the U.S. would seek compensation because of the flawed bid process around 2022. Gulati said, “Previously, co-hosting would be entertained when the infrastructure in a particular country wasn’t sufficient to host a World Cup, which is why Spain and Portugal, and Belgium and Holland bid together. For a country like the U.S. that wouldn’t be necessary. But I don’t want to rule out some of the things Decio mentioned.” Questioned whether the U.S. TV networks would roll over and accept the likely switching of the Qatar World Cup from the summer to winter, Gulati said there was a major issue with broadcaster’s commitment to the NFL. Gulati said, “It really comes down to what is in the contractual agreement, and I don’t know what is in those contracts. FIFA obviously does, the American broadcasters do. It is clearly a difficult time to be playing [in the winter] for American broadcasters which have commitments to the NFL.”
MLS POPULARITY: Another issue in the panel debate was whether the MLS (Major League Soccer) had reached a tipping point in terms of its popularity -- though this was dismissed by Gulati. Gulati: “I am not sure we are at a tipping point. The growth of the game is unstoppable. It’s not like what it is like in England, Brazil or Germany, yet. It’s not like the NFL or baseball, yet, but it’s 18,000 people a game and not many leagues around the world can say that."
John Reynolds is a writer in London.