After Americans' win, 3 could be key for World Cup hosting
MOSCOW (AP) — Three is the new magic number for hosting a World Cup.
Victory for the U.S.-led North American bid with Canada and Mexico to stage the 2026 tournament could mean that single-nation hosts like Russia will be rare in future.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino likes co-hosting, and it can better meet the demands of a 48-team tournament format starting in eight years.
"It's almost a pity if it takes place only in one country," Infantino said Wednesday after his preferred candidate beat Morocco's solo campaign. "Other countries can benefit from this excitement."
A 2030 World Cup bid campaign has already begun by Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, the latter being the original host in 1930.
On Thursday, the Paraguayan leader of the South American soccer body, Alejandro Dominguez, opened a promotional house in central Moscow effectively as a bid base camp.
Others are intrigued by the FIFA door opened by the North Americans, who won over soccer federations that cannot hope to host a World Cup alone.
"They saw themselves in us," said U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro, citing voters in Scandinavia, western Europe, southeast Asia and South America.
"That was a very powerful message and that caught on," Cordeiro said at a victory news conference Wednesday. "They can all now dream of having a 48 (team) World Cup because they don't all have to go build 16 stadiums. Isn't that a great thing?"
It is a clear break for FIFA from previous leadership. Former president Sepp Blatter would stress that FIFA's only experience of co-hosting — 2002 in Japan and South Korea — was tough to run with different laws, currencies and land masses.
A strong European option for 2030 is now an England-anchored bid of British federations. Scotland and Wales are obvious junior partners in a set-up that could mirror the 60-10-10 split of games to host picked by the North Americans.
"It's a fantastic idea," former England forward Ian Wright told The Associated Press. "Between the three countries, they would put on an amazing World Cup.
"If they're not thinking about it, they should be thinking about it," said Wright, working in Moscow for Fox Sports and British broadcaster ITV.
They are thinking about it, though at the earliest idea stage. A meeting of Britain's four federations in Moscow this week agreed to revisit the subject next year. Northern Ireland is a difficult fit with its 18,000-capacity national stadium in Belfast far below World Cup size.
The president of European soccer body UEFA, Aleksander Ceferin, is open to a British bid.
"It's always a bit stronger if it's more countries," Ceferin told reports Wednesday. "They (England), with their infrastructure, they can host all alone or with (Britain)."
UEFA will push strongly for the 2030 World Cup, keeping the modern rate of every third edition hosted in Europe.
Moroccan media reported Thursday on hopes for a repeat bid for 2030 — a sixth attempt in 40 years. Could a regional North African bid work with Algeria and Tunisia?
"Why not?" Morocco bid campaigner El Hadji Diouf, the former Senegal forward, told the AP. "But it's a shame. The countries which do not get along politically do not want to work together."
Soccer might overcome politics if federations note Canada should now get automatic entry for 2026 as host, having not qualified since 1986.
Cordeiro said uniting North America's soccer officials "sent a message" at times of testy political relations between their leaders.
"If this can be successful, this can be repeated," he said, "in all parts of the world."