April 11, 2017 / 8:14 PM / 2 years ago

Soccer: North American trio seek to avoid rival World Cup bids

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - The three-nation North American bid to host the 2026 World Cup is asking FIFA to fast-track its proposal without a competitive bidding process.

On Tuesday, FIFA released the agenda for next month’s congress in Bahrain, where all 211 member federations will gather, and it included an item on the 2026 World Cup put forward by the U.S, Mexican and Canadian federations.

The three federations announced on Monday that they will bid to host the 2026 tournament jointly.

A spokesman for U.S. Soccer said the congress proposal included a “non-competitive window” where the North American bid’s proposal would be given a technical evaluation. That could mean the U.S-led bid being approved without the usual competition between rival bids.

So far, the North American joint bid is the only one to have emerged for the 2026 World Cup although the Confederation of African Football has discussed a possible bid from Morocco.

The planned bidding window has yet to open and FIFA’s new four-stage bid process, announced in May 2016, stated that any vote would not be held until May 2020.

The plan, drawn up by FIFA’s ruling Council, stated that an evaluation of bids would conclude in February 2020 but the North American proposal seeks backing for a technical evaluation that would conclude nearly two years earlier.

FIFA’s World Cup bidding processes have been tainted with scandal in the past and the decision to hand the 2018 tournament to Russia and 2022 to Qatar came under strong criticism and sparked investigations into corruption by U.S. and Swiss authorities.

It remains to be seen whether FIFA’s members will want to speed up the process and bypass the normal competitive bidding process.

What may help the North American proposal is the lack of any alternative at this stage.

In October, FIFA’s ruling body decided that no country could bid for the 2026 hosting if their continental confederation had hosted one of the two preceding tournaments.

That leaves Africa, South America and Oceania as potential bidders, but no candidate has emerged so far.

FIFA have also voted to expand the World Cup to 48 teams for the 2026 edition, requiring more facilities to handle the increase to 80 games, while also opening the door to joint bids.

The North American proposal is for 60 games to be held in the United States with Mexico and Canada each getting 10, early-stage games.

Editing by Clare Fallon

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