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US, Canada, Mexico World Cup is a dead end for CONCACAF

Sunday 17th June 2018

Full disclosure: I hold citizenship in two of the three countries [sorry, Mexico] that have won the partnered bid to host the 2026 World Cup. From a patriotic standpoint, I should be at least 67% happy with the news. Yeah, about that.

Obviously, there are some aspects of a US/Canada/Mexico World Cup that excite [party!] and some minor drawbacks. I am not looking forward to typing US/Canada/Mexico2026 repeatedly when the time comes. Canamex26, anyone? Amexican? No, that will upset the Trumpists. They’ll still be around, even if he isn’t. We’ll probably be stuck with Usacamex, which rolls off the tongue like a drunk out of a chair before landing unconscious in a tongue-twisted heap amid the sawdust and peanut shells. Yeehaw.

I’ll give the Great Orange Combover this much. He knows a bad deal when he sees one. He won’t commit to NAFTA because the treaty has no sunset clause. It should. As George Monbiot notes for the Guardian, circumstances change and priorities with them. Being trapped in an outdated agreement, like we are with oil and gas pipelines when we desperately need to be developing alternative clean energy sources, is unhealthy. That’s why Trump sat there looking like the cat who ate the canary when the rest of the G7 leaders surrounded him the other day. One thing about gangsters is they never go into a strange place when they don’t know where the back door is.

There is no back door in a 2026 World Cup for the three largest countries in CONCACAF. If you’re a USSF, Canada Soccer, FMF or CONCACAF executive, you should have a vested interest in embedding a football culture deeper into North America than it already is. On its surface, a World Cup co-hosted by the regional triumvirate seems to do that. You could say it kills three birds with one stone.

In fact, killing prospects for another tournament on the continent over the next several decades is what awarding the bid does. Think about it. FIFA is committed to spreading the wealth, or if we’re being honest, hitting up a different sucker every four years to cover the massive overhead that comes with staging its quadrennial extravaganza while walking away with the profits. Football’s governing body doesn’t return to the same host for decades after it has milked them dry. Look at the countries who have hosted more than once.

World Cup Host 1st Time 2nd Time Years Between
Italy 1934 1990 56
France 1938 1998 60
Brazil 1950 2014 64
West Germany/Germany 1974 2006 32
*1970 hosts Mexico were an emergency replacement for war-torn Colombia in 1986.      

 

Beyond the United States, Mexico and Canada, no other CONCACAF nation or multi-national partnership possess the wherewithal to stage a World Cup. No one in the Caribbean, nor in Central America. The economic might, infrastructure and political stability simply doesn’t exist in those regions. The three largest countries are it for the confederation. Now the triumvirate is committed to 2026 and the US [2] and Mexico [3] will have been hosts on multiple occasions. Neither will be eligible again for a minimum eight cycles [32 years] going by the minimum precedent set in previous tournaments, 13 if you calculate the average. And Canada isn't going to bid alone. Meanwhile, Europe, Asia, South America and Africa could host at least two tournaments each.

Essentially, the United States and Canada tacitly agreed to continue indefinitely as outsiders in the football world in exchange for a shared moment in the sun. A tri-national partnership was a bad idea for both. It was a bad idea for FIFA, who should want to visit both countries more regularly, both to grow the game and exploit the available resources. It. Was. A. Bad. Idea.

The bid’s scope was entirely unnecessary and will make travel unpleasant for supporters. Current host Russia is the world’s largest country. Its tournament is centred in Moscow, where two stadiums will host matches. The farthest participating city from the capital is Sochi, 1600 km distant. With group matches rotating through venues, supporters face long treks to follow their teams around what is just the European third of the country. When compared to North American cities, however, those jaunts will be short commutes.

Even though Miami is a miserable sports town that only supports its teams when they’re winning [good luck when the novelty wears off, David Beckham] its status as a tourist haven mandates it as a World Cup venue. Seattle and Vancouver are football-mad towns with large grounds ready to host World Cup matches. The Puget Sound cities are 5,500 kilometres from South Beach. Toronto is 4100 km from Mexico City.  If an England fan had group games in Vancouver, Mexico City and Philadelphia, they would need to travel 7,400 km and spend a minimum 12 hours travelling between games. There would be little time or energy for sightseeing. Forget living out of your suitcase. Buy the largest one possible and live in it.

Canadians at least come away with a hosting opportunity at minimal cost. Staging the event alone would have been possible but prohibitively expensive. Canada’s supporting infrastructure is in place but it does not have 12 stadia that meet FIFA hosting standards. Upgrading existing facilities and building several new ones that would only be used further if they were downsized following the tournament would have meant billions wasted.

It would have made sense for Canada to partner with the US in a two-country bid. If Mexico fielded a competing offer, perhaps in tandem with Costa Rica, Panama, and/or other Central American neighbours, the two parties could have promised to hold a friendly competition with the winner supporting the loser in a future bid. In this manner, the World Cup would swing through the neighbourhood in 2026, then again as soon as '42 or ‘46. As it stands, another World Cup shouldn’t be expected for 40-50 years.

I’ll say it one more time. A US/Canada/Mexico World Cup was a bad idea.

Martin Palazzotto

The former editor of World Football Columns, Martin contributes frequently to Stretty News and is the author of the short story collection strange bOUnce. He has appeared in several other blogs which, sadly, have ceased to exist. He is old and likes to bring out defunct. Although football is his primary passion, the geezer enjoys many sports and pop culture forms. Expect them to intrude upon his meanderings for It's Round and It's White.


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