GENTLEMEN’S AGREEMENT – Unpacking the World Cup 2026 Bid

It is time for a special edition of the Gentlemen’s Agreement, who always split their opinions 50/50. 

Cantina MX podcast host John Jagou, and FutMexNation featured columnist, Joel Aceves, take a look at the 2026 World Cup bid, its implications, what ifs, and what nows.  Open up your humidor, cut your finest cigar, pour a snifter of your finest sipping liquor, and dig in.


John Jagou:  Joely, there was some big, big news last week as CONCACAF announced a 3-country World Cup bid among US, Canada, and Mexico.  The split of games did not have people very happy South of the Border.  The question, though, that I pose to you, Joel, is could Mexico have been awarded a stand-alone bid?


Joel Aceves:  Quiobole, Yon.  Not after it was expanded to 48 teams. At that point there weren’t enough resources to host a tournament that big. This will be a problem for many countries and FIFA has already said they are fine with multiple hosts. It cheapens the essence of hosting the event. It is the equivalent of getting a participation medal.


JJ:  Your comparison is a little harsh, but I see the essence of your point.

Multi-country World Cups are a very possible future for the tournament. And I absolutely agree that A 48-team tourney is excessive. The added countries will do nothing more than provide cannon fodder for the more established sides.  And we also can’t deny that there are very few countries that are capable of hosting the tournament in its expanded format on their own.  Mexico ain’t one of them.

In addition, we also have to understand the politics of the decision. Asia, Africa, and CONCACAF have been playing the role of kingmakers for years. The expansion benefits them the most. But, like I mentioned, they will be rabble, pawns, foot soldiers to be torn apart by the big guns.

They will be happy just to be there, though. So I guess, in that sense, it is a participation trophy.


Joely:  I don’t like the idea of 3 team groups for the World Cup either. You wait four years for a World Cup – some countries have been waiting even longer – play through a two-year qualifying system only to be guaranteed two games!

All of these changes like you said are meant to benefit the minnows who voted FIFA supremo Gianni Infantino to the presidency. It is how Joao Havelange extended his term for four more years after the ‘94 tourney by adding 8 more tickets, taking the tourney from 24 countries to 32. Given the growth of the sport at the time it was a good number.

Then we have Sepp Blatter who got his presidency by getting the Asian and African votes so we had the first dual-host WC in South Korea-Japan and later the first world cup in Africa. Now, its triple hosts and 48 teams. You know the saying Yon, the more things change the more they remain the same.


JJ:  Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…

You are right, and now we will have teams like Thailand, who will be over the moon to finally make the World Cup that they will gladly get taken behind the woodshed twice.  Thank you sir.  May I have another?

I thought an expansion to 40 teams was a good number, until I realized that the winner would need to play 8 games. No bueno.  The 3-team groups aren’t ideal, but the end result of the group stage is something to get really excited about:  the World Cup becomes a 32 team one-off. The draw will be more important than ever.

For a team like Mexico, one that has to expend so much energy just to survive the group stage, a 3-team group would give them the luxury of rounding into form, not having to peak too early.  How many times have we seen Italy and Germany barely survive the group stage, only to see them still make the final?  The group stage is their prep time.


Joely:  Well Yon, the changes won’t take effect until the 2026 World Cup so we will have two more tournaments to enjoy the cup until it morphs into Infantino’s circus. By that point, I might no longer even be invested in the sport with the way it is getting commercialized. CONCACAF doing a Nation’s League when we already have a biennial Gold Cup just over-saturates the sport.


JJ:  We will be sorry to see you go. How much self-loathing can you take after your unhealthy relationship with Chivas?  Jaja

Euro has expanded, UEFA will have their own league of nations, the Gold Cup will expand soon, and Copa America will be inviting European teams. Capitalism at its finest, right?


Getting back to the topic of the 2026 bid:  does anyone, deep down, really believe Mexico would have been able to stage the tournament following the strict guidelines that have changed dramatically since 1986?

Let’s look back at that World Cup. The games were played in 12 stadiums across 9 cities. CDMX, Monterrey, and Guadalajara each had 2 stadiums in play. There were games also in Leon, Toluca, and Puebla. There was one new stadium built: La Corregidora in Queretaro, and the venues were rounded out by Neza and Irapuato.

Each group played in two stadiums, with the group seed playing all games in one.

A lot has happened since that World Cup was awarded:  Heysel, tournament expansion, and a shift in how the tournament is scheduled.  Instead of setting a base per group, teams play group games in 3 different cities.  FIFA also set strict codes for stadiums:  all-seats, minimum capacities, etc.

As it stands now, Mexico has only a small handful of stadiums that are up to “World Cup Code.”  So my question is could Mexico have been able to guarantee build 9 new stadiums to stage the tournament?

My answer is no.


Joely:  Let us also remember that the Mexican government, not FMF, would have to foot the bill and that FIFA keeps 90% of the profits from the tournament. With the peso in decline, other problems like the gasolinazo pop up, I don’t see how staging a tournament of that scale would even be contemplated.

Yon, the question I haven’t heard ask is: will the FIFA 2025 Confederations Cup also be hosted by the CONCACAF Tri and who gets the final?


JJ:  That would certainly make for an interesting discussion.  But I am sure most those games, if not all, will be played in the US.

The tournament I would like to see Mexico land is Copa America. It is the one tournament Mexico truly deserves to host. CONMEBOL can thank Mexico in part for the surge in popularity of the world’s oldest national team tournament, at least in terms of increased rights fees. And staging this tournament does not involve all those pesky FIFA stadium requirements.  I love Copa America and love the fact that the stadiums used are all unique in architecture, capacity, etc.  The influx of new stadiums built for World Cups were all very similar in design.  The Stadiums in Brazil had very little identity – like the old cookie cutter stadiums built in the US in the 1970’s.

Joely:  Given the success of Copa America Centenario it is likely another tourney will be hosted in CONCACAF again. FMF should definitely push hard to make hosting a Copa America a reality and in some ways make up for their 2026 WC shortcomings.

CONMEBOL brass has already stated their desire for another tourney in north america including expanding the Copa Libertadores to include teams from the region. The Libertadores television rights will be up for grabs next year and im sure there will be a push to bring back Liga MX into the fold.


JJ:  CONMEBOL made a mistake by changing the calendar. But it might help them out in the long run if they can secure a better rights deal, provided, of course, that LigaMX (and MLS) teams are involved.

So all is not lost, not getting a bigger piece of that 2026 pie.

Ya nos vamos, Joel.  Hasta la proxima.


Joely:  See you then, Yon.



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