World Cup 2026 bid announcement met with mixed reviews in Mexico
GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- The announcement that Mexico could become the first country in history to host games at a third World Cup was supposed to be a joyous occasion. Except it turned out to be a collection of mixed emotions.
It was expected in Mexico that Monday's news conference to make official the United States, Canada and Mexico's bid for 2026 World Cup would hand the lion's share of games to the United States. That wasn't a surprise.
But when U.S. Soccer chief Sunil Gulati signaled that Mexico and Canada would get only 10 games each of the tournament's 80, and that all matches from the quarterfinal stage forward would be played in the United States, the reaction in Mexico turned sour, even if federation president Decio de Maria suggested that the number isn't 100 percent fixed.
"That is the number that has been put down, but there are still nine years to go," De Maria said when asked in Spanish about the reportedly low number of games Mexico would host. "With what we've agreed, we can offer a great World Cup in Mexico, and Mexicans in the United States will have another 60 games to enjoy."
The stream of the news conference on the Mexican federation's website wasn't subtitled or dubbed from English, meaning the news about Mexico's number of games was slow to take grip. The FMF's news story to announce the candidature didn't even make mention of the split of games between the three countries. When the news sunk in, though, reaction was strong.
The first story on the front page of Récord's website read "Mexico could get crumbs," while TV Azteca pundit Gerardo Velazquez slammed the negotiating skills of the FMF: "What great business! ... I think 10 games is an embarrassment. It is something that only demonstrates the power Sunil Gulati has in the region and that the real giant in CONCACAF is the United States and not Mexico. "
The president of Liga MX club Santos Laguna, Alejandro Irarragorri, struck a more measured tone and suggested that the final split in venues might still be a point of negotiation.
"Ten games for Mexico, 10 for Canada and 60 for the United States has been talked about, but I believe that if you have the necessary elements and generate value to negotiate, it can be improved," said Irarragorri. "There will be an opening for negotiations for the locations of this event, which I think without any doubt is better to have, than not have."
Prior to Monday's official announcement, Tigres and former El Tri head coach Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti suggested Mexico should try to host the 2026 tournament on its own.
"I think Mexico has the capacity, infrastructure, economic position, fans, everything to have a World Cup on its own, as the United States has," he said. "The two previous [World Cups in Mexico in 1970 and 1986] were considered two of the best, and it would be phenomenal if they gave it only to Mexico, and hopefully they'll fight for it."
Ferretti's words, though, were later contradicted by those of De Maria, who told Televisa after the announcement that the United States didn't need Mexico to host on its own, even suggesting Mexico should be grateful to be involved.
"The United States doesn't need us to host a World Cup," De Maria said. "That is the message. On Day 1, we didn't have a single game. Today, [we have] 10."
De Maria did not exactly help himself with the handshake at the end of the signing -- as he offered his hand, Gulati instead turned first to Canada FA and CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani -- and it is doubtful whether the words of the Mexican federation's president will quickly calm the storm that has greeted the details of the 2026 bid.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.