CONCACAF, the soccer governing body of North America strongly believes that expanding the World Cup to 48 teams will enhance North America's credentials in the 2026 bidding contests.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino earlier this week has expressed his desire of adding another 16 teams which would reduce the pool of countries with sufficient infrastructure.
"From a 2026 perspective, pick a number (of finalists) and North American can handle it," Victor Montagliani, president of the North and Central America and Caribbean soccer confederation, told The Associated Press. "A CONCACAF bid would be strong regardless of what number we finally set on." The World Cup was last staged in the CONCACAF region by the United States in 1994.
The Americans are keen on another shot at hosting in 2026, potentially linking up with neighbors Canada and Mexico. "Is there an opportunity to combine the three countries? Perhaps. We don't know that yet," said Montagliani, a FIFA vice president. "There have been zero formal discussions. We are not there yet." After the troubled bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, which sparked years of corruption investigations, FIFA will be hoping for a smoother 2026 vote.
Originally earmarked for 2017, the decision by the FIFA membership is now not due until 2020. With Africa, South America, Europe and Asia hosting the World Cups between 2010 and 2022, it had been widely accepted that it should be North America's turn for the first time since 1994. FIFA's statues currently prevent consecutive World Cups being staged on the same continent, but China could yet seek to follow 2022 host Qatar.
Chinese conglomerate Wanda signed up as a top-tier FIFA sponsor in March saying it wanted to be "better placed" to help decide where future editions of the World Cup are awarded. "There has to be some sort of rotation or else you look what is happening with the Olympics," Montagliani said, referring to Tokyo hosting the 2020 Olympics between the 2018 and 2022 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and Beijing.
"I don't think it's a good thing that it keeps on going to one area. It's not a World Cup that belongs in one region. So I think so sort of rotation needs to occur because the World Cup belongs to the world and we need to respect that." Montagliani applauded Infantino for "thinking outside the box" by floating the idea of a 48-team World Cup.
"There are traditionalists in the game who I think, if it was up to them, would still have a 16-team World Cup," Montagliani said in an interview in London. "The reality is that the World Cup is not just an economic beast, but a product that inspires hope for countries. So if we can improve it, make it bigger without losing its romanticism -- why not?"