There’s a sporting chance that the beautiful game could help unify Mexico and the U.S. at a time when some politicians are trying to drive the two countries apart with anti-immigration rhetoric and plans to build walls.
Calls for the U.S. and Mexico to co-host the 2026 FIFA World Cup are not new, and joint bids have happened before. In 2002 Korea and Japan joined forces to host the global tournament, and The Netherlands recently teamed up with Belgium for a failed joint bid to host the 2018 World Cup, which will be played in Russia.
But buzz for a potential U.S.-Mexico bid has grown this month following the 66th FIFA Congress held in Mexico City, where officials from both soccer federations held meetings on the subject, according to ESPN.
“It could be a positive move for the game in both countries, and it’s also a very exciting proposition for FIFA. We will now go away and formulate a timetable for further discussions,” John Motta, a board member of the U.S. Soccer Federation, told ESPN.
Mexican Soccer Federation president Decio De Maria also told ESPN he raised the possibility of a joint bid to FIFA president Gianni Infantino. And a source from the Mexican Soccer Federation consulted by Fusion said Mexican officials plan to actively pursue the idea.
Although the symbolism of two countries joined by soccer seems like something out of a sports diplomacy playbook, supporters of the initiative say it also makes economic sense and would bring about huge benefits to both countries.
“Mexico has a big competitive advantage,” former Mexican Ambassador to the U.S., Arturo Sarukhan, told Fusion. “Unlike Brazil, which was criticized for its spending on stadiums, Mexico already has the infrastructure so it would only need to renovate or modernize.”
Sarukhan, one of the early proponents of the joint-bid idea, says the strength of the two countries' existing stadium infrastructure would make dual hosting duties an attractive bid for FIFA. The former ambassador also thinks a joint bid would be very attractive for sponsors to market to fans on both sides of the border.
Although a joint World Cup would bring attention to the border, Sarukhan says it's unlikely the games would be played there. Instead, he says the tournament would probably follow the example of Korea-Japan, which used major cities as the venues.
Still, a joint World Cup would be the biggest cross-border mega-event ever attempted between the U.S. and Mexico, and is something that would be a big “win-win” as a way of highlighting the interconnectedness of the two nations.