Rights revenue bonanza predicted for FIFA World Cup 2026

13 April 2017
Public

It may be nine years away, but after the launch this week of a joint bid by US, Canada, Mexico to stage the football World Cup, calculations are already being made about the size of the commercial pay day.

According to the Financial Times, FIFA expects the new 80-game format then in place in 2026 to increase revenue by nearly $1bn, due mostly to projections that the tournament will return an extra $500m from televisions rights agreements.

FIFA will make the decision on who will host the tournament in 2020. However, the bidding group has asked FIFA, in a letter signed 11 March, to start considering their bid already next month. The letter asks the congress, which meets on 11 May, to agree in principle to award the World Cup to “one or more of” the Canadian Soccer Association, the Federation Mexicana de Futbol Asociacion and US Soccer, provided that all the technical requirements are met. The letter further requests that the bidding process only be opened to other countries if these requirements are not met.

The football associations of the United States, Canada and Mexico launched on the shared bid for the 2026 World Cup on Monday (10 April). It will be the first World Cup after the expansion from 32 teams to 48, and would mark the first tournament successfully held by three different countries.

The tournament will feature 80 games. The initial proposal would see the United States host 60 and all games from the quarter finals onwards. Canada and Mexico would host 10 games each.

This would be the first time that one or more countries in the Concacaf region, FIFA’s North and Central American federation, had held the World Cup since the United States hosted it in 1994.

That tournament had the highest average attendance in World Cup history.

"When our nations come together as one - as we will for 2026 - there is no question the United States, Mexico and Canada will deliver an experience that will celebrate the game and serve players, supporters and partners alike," said Sunil Gulati, president of the US Soccer Federation.

The 2026 World Cup is supposed to be the first whereby the hosts are decided according to the new selection procedure. According to the new rules, FIFA will draft a shortlist of bids from which the 209 member nations of FIFA will vote for their preferred choice. Previously, FIFA’s executive committee had the final say on which nation was awarded the tournament.

Some commentators believe awarding the 2026 World Cup on an uncompetitive basis is unlikely to improve the public image of FIFA, which is still suffering from allegations that the bidding process for the 2022 tournament was manipulated in favour of Qatar. Others will argue that the request makes sense as it would provide early certainty for the hosting nations and the bid is likely to be successful anyway.

The Europe and Asia regions cannot present a candidate as they will have hosted the two previous World Cups, in Russia (2018) and Qatar, respectively. However, the bid highlights the role of independent news media in ensuring that the selection procedure for such lucrative public interest sporting competitions remains transparent.

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