It's official. The United States, Canada and Mexico have joined together to host the 2026 World Cup together. We learned some key details about how it will work, but here are some big questions remaining:
Who gets to host the opener and the final?
In Monday's announcement, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said the proposal would call for the USA to host the majority of games. Does that mean they will host the final too? He said the plan called for the quarterfinal rounds and on to go to the U.S., so that is the idea, but he did acknowledge that FIFA gets to make the final decision.
"Everything gets decided in conjunction with FIFA," he said.
The opening match, Gulati said, has not been discussed.
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Will FIFA accept the plan to have the U.S. host the vast majority of matches?
It's a joint bid, but there is clearly one nation leading the way. The proposal will call for the U.S. to host 60 games while Mexico and Canada will each host 10. It seems like Mexico and Canada are playing minor roles in a bid that is practically the USA's bid. But as Gulati put it referring to FIFA: "This is our proposal. It's their tournament."
How many different stadiums and cities will host games?
Regardless of whether the joint bid wins the rights to host the 2026 World Cup, it'll be the first World Cup featuring 48 teams. FIFA has said it would aim to have the tournament completed in the same amount of time as the current 32-team World Cup, but there will be a huge increase in games and thus more stadiums needed. How many different stadiums and cities will be needed?
Gulati said that they want to host it in as many cities as possible, but how many that is remains to be seen.
How will travel across the border work for teams and fans?
This is a big concern. Only one other joint World Cup has been hosted, the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea, and it had its share of logistical issues. Travel across borders around the world has become even stricter and more tightly regulated since then. President Trump's recent attempts to limit travel from certain nations only complicates matters even more. Working out visas and ensuring travel between cities is difficult enough for any World Cup, but now it needs to happen across three different countries.
Will all three host nations get automatic qualifying spots?
FIFA president Gianni Infantino has expressed his support for a joint bid, but there are no guarantees that each of the hosts will earn an automatic World Cup spot, as hosts traditionally do. The FIFA Council makes the final determination, which everyone associated with the bid acknowledged, but Gulati and Canada's Victor Montagliani made it clear they expect all three to earn spots.
How much investment will be needed for stadium and infrastructure upgrades?
Since Mexico and Canada will only host 10 games each, there may be less need for them to take on serious construction projects, but they may use the World Cup as an opportunity to improve some facilities. Gulati said the U.S. is aiming to spread the tournament across as many venues as possible because the USA has plenty of stadiums capable of hosting a World Cup. He also said that the bid is built on existing venues so the goal is to keep costs down across all three countries.
Still, because the regulations for the 2026 World Cup have yet to be finalized by FIFA, there are question marks.
"It's impossible to say," Gulati said of the cost, adding that they are waiting on the final rules from FIFA before doing so.
Will all the World Cup matches be grass or turf?
Every men's World Cup has been on natural grass, but Canada conspicuously hosted the Women's World Cup in 2015 entirely on artificial surfaces. It was a controversial decision since no senior World Cup had ever been held on anything but grass. So will Canada convert their stadiums to natural grass for the 2026 World Cup?
"We haven't discussed any of that here, but I'm sure that's FIFA's decision," Montagliani said, noting that the World Cup has always been on grass.
Getty ImagesRich Lam
Who is bidding against them?
Right now, the joint bid looks like the clear frontrunner, especially since no other serious bidders have come forward. FIFA has already said that Europe and Asia are ineligible to bid on the 2026 World Cup, because the two continents are hosting in 2018 and 2022. That leaves only bids from Africa and South America to compete with the North American bid, but no other countries have stepped up. That may change by the time the host will be decided in 2020, but for now, the joint CONCACAF bid has no real competition.
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