Although officially the 2026 World Cup will take place in 3 different countries, most of the games will be played on American soil, with Canada and Mexico hosting around 10-12 games each. Yes, CONCACAF wanted to present a joint bid and not only a one country proposition for PR reasons. Its management might really believe that Mexico and Canada hosting some of the games in the tournament will help develop football in those countries. However, the real reason is financial, of course. There is no other country in the world that could maximize the biggest football event on earth.
It is true that the USA will invest most of the money out of the three in the 2026 World Cup, and that Canada might improve in football, but it is not the primary sport in the country yet. However, why would Mexico, a religious-like passionate football country, who already hosted two successful World Cup tournaments by itself, would agree that a tri-state competition will be divided as such?
Well, if you ask the Mexican federation, the response is clear: Most of the USA is a “Mexican Territory”. At least when it comes to football. Yes, the fact that the Mexican federation is about to earn a tremendous amount of money helps, but there is something behind the notion of “USA is Mexico”. The Mexican national team is playing as many games in a year at it could afford on American soil. There is even a term for that in Mexico: “Partidos Moleros”, which refers to games that are meant to earn money for the football federation.
With 20-30 million Mexican or American citizens of a Mexican descent living in the USA, every time that a national symbol like the national team is playing there, the stadiums are packed with fans. Even born and bred Americans with Mexican roots will usually cheer for Mexico instead of the USA. There are very few places in the USA that Mexico won’t feel at home team during their games. Florida is packed with Colombians, some northern states have a Peruvian majority, but almost every stadium in the USA will be Green during Mexico’s games. One can argue that the real team of the USA is Mexico.
Moreover, there is a football revolution in the USA. More and more people and companies invest in the game, and MLS is expanding to different cities and locations in the USA. The league started with ten teams after the first World Cup in the USA back in 1994 – and transitioned all the way to 24 teams today (including 3 Canadian teams) and with plans to expand to 27 Teams by 2021, with the next club to join set to be David Beckham’s Inter Miami. Yes, many American people are getting to know the game better, but the real engine of the game in the USA is the Latin community, mainly the Mexican as it is by far the biggest Latin-American community in the country. Not only the Mexican Federation knows that, but also CONCACAF who maintain a bi-yearly federation tournament, the Gold Cup, as its golden egg. With an average of 65-70 thousand Mexican fans attending every game, no wonder that CONCACAF insists of having a tournament every two years. One must say, that CONCACAF is trying to use some of the money generated in the competition to improve the level of the other countries of the federations, with nations like Canada, Jamaica and even Haiti or Panama that show improvement in the last several years.
So yes, the 2026 World Cup will be played mainly on US soil, but like any Gold Cup or any other Mexican national team game, it should be a Mexican home tournament. 2026 is still far away, so meanwhile, Mexico is playing at home during the Gold Cup. Their next game will be played in Phoenix against the surprising Haiti, and if Mexico will win and qualify to the finals, they might meet the hosts, USA, for a Mexican home game.