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CONCACAF's Multinational World Cup Bid Ridiculous

Sunday 16th April 2017
There should always be more than one way to do something. What's more, people, if not cats, should remain open to alternative methods. I mention this because FIFA, through new president Gianni Infantino has expressed its desire to favor multinational World Cup bids in the future. In what would have seemed an extremely ridiculous response before Donald Trump was elected US President, Canada, the United States, and Mexico complied. The three nations announced this past Monday they would jointly bid for World Cup 2026.
If you can't imagine why their bid is ridiculous on its face, start by looking at a map. Infantino might as well have suggested FIFA was interested solely in entire continents bidding on its tournament.

South Korea and Japan, the only multinational World Cup staged to date, took place in one time zone. So did Euros hosted by Poland/Ukraine, Austria/Switzerland, and Belgium/Netherlands. While the aforementioned American election makes any assumptions dangerous, let's just take a chance by imagining Alaska and Nova Scotia will not be chosen as sites for any matches. If Sarah Palin and the Gorton's Fisherman somehow lobby for their inclusion, this multinational World Cup would be staged across six time zones. Neither the forty-ninth state nor any Canadian maritime province has a top flight club in any sport, however. More realistically, it would "only" be four time zones.

Montreal, Vancouver, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Mexico City, and Guadalajara are eight large North and Central American metropolitan areas with football clubs. Chicago is centrally located between America's east and west coasts. The other seven are close to either the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans. If not these cities, then some other combination judiciously divided between the three countries would likely serve as host cities for matches in the knockout rounds and beyond. Toronto and Washington, for instance, could be preferred to Montreal and Miami. Regardless, the mileage racked up by supporters would be--you guessed it--ridiculous.
European fans love to travel to away matches. Most countries are small. Among Europe's larger nations, the farthest distance between Premier League clubs, Sunderland and Bournemouth, is 563 km. Double that when Lille and Monaco meet in Ligue 1. The longest Bundesliga trip, Freiburg to or from Hamburg, splits the difference. Yet, only the Russian Premier League's distances rival travel World Cup fans would have to undertake to follow their teams should CONCACAF win hosting rights in 2026.

One positive aspect to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is every venue will be a short drive from supporters' lodgings. That's hardly a counterweight to venues being built by slave labor in mortally unsafe conditions. Nevertheless, those attending will book one flight and one hotel room. Four years later, a North American World Cup could exact revenge, testing fans' endurance and wallets.

Were any among the three countries to win a solo bid, travel would still be extensive. Canada and the US stretch between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, 5,200 km for the Canucks, 4,300 for the Yanks. Mexico runs 4,000 km south from Tijuana's border with San Diego to Tapachula's with Guatemala. When you combine the trio, ridiculous doesn't begin to cover their massive geography.

Donald Trump will no longer be in the White House in 2026, yet airport security will no doubt be onerous. It has been for more than a decade in the United States. Repeated requests to take off shoes and submit to pat downs would further tax travelers' patience.

All three countries could stage a World Cup independently were an independent bid more welcome.

Canada just hosted the 2015 Women's World Cup. There were issues with artificial turf. As well, the country might have to build a few stadiums to meet FIFA's minimum, both in number and capacity, for the more expansive men's competition. Yet, sufficient supporting infrastructure, including roads, rail, airports, and accommodations, pre-exists.

Both Mexico and the United States have everything needed to stage a tournament on their own. Between MLS, NFL, and NCAA stadiums, there are enough American grounds to host matches and act as training grounds. Mexico has fewer, more dated stadia. Renovations may be in order in some cities. Otherwise, everything is in place.

Moreover, both are experienced. Mexico has already hosted two World Cups; the United States has staged just one. It would make more sense for the latter to share hosting duties with Canada and Mexico to bid for 2026 or a future tournament in partnership with its many South American neighbors.

Sharing is a commendable practice. Spreading the wealth is to be admired. Spreading yourself too thin with a continental-sized multinational World Cup, however, is foolish.
Martin Palazzotto

The former editor of World Football Columns, Martin authored the short story collection strange bOUnce. He appeared in several other blogs which no longer exist. Old, he likes to bring out defunct. If outdated sport and pop-cultural references intrude on his meanderings for It's Round and It's White, don't be alarmed. He's harmless.

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