Soccer

FIFA to set stringent new rules for choosing World Cup host

The 2026 World Cup hosts will be decided in a FIFA vote in 2020 after bidding countries undergo stringent new checks on their suitability to stage the soccer showpiece.

Bidders' human rights record will be key consideration

Qatar's Crown Prince - now Emir - Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, left, and former FIFA president Sepp Blatter attend a match in Qatar in 2010. Controversy over the country's suitability to host the 2022 World Cup contributed to FIFA revamping its rules for the bidding process. (Osama Faisal/Associated Press)

The 2026 World Cup hosts will be decided in a FIFA vote in 2020 after bidding countries undergo stringent new checks on their suitability to stage soccer's showpiece event.

The governing body pledged to beef up the rules after the tainted dual votes in 2010 for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups set off years of scandals that culminated in Sepp Blatter being forced out of the presidency.

FIFA is yet to settle on the format for the 2026 tournament or which countries will be eligible to be hosts.

FIFA's ruling council decided Tuesday that by October there should be a decision on whether FIFA President Gianni Infantino can honour an election manifesto pledge and expand the World Cup from 32 to 40 teams.

North America eyed for 2026

With Africa, South America, Europe and Asia hosting the World Cups before 2026, it had been widely accepted that it should be North America's turn for the first time since 1994. A joint bid between the United States, Canada and Mexico has been mooted. A FIFA statement said there would also be a review on whether to allow joint bids and the "eligibility of confederations."

Bidders are set to be subject to human rights regulations that FIFA plans to codify during a bidding consultation process that will last until next May. FIFA's newfound commitment to human rights follows criticism about working conditions in 2022 World Cup host Qatar.

The consultation phase will also firm up rules that will see bidders excluded if they do not meet "technical requirements," FIFA said. There was criticism that FIFA's executive committee disregarded a report that highlighted the dangers posed by the summer heat in Qatar by voting for the Gulf nation in 2010.

FIFA expects to complete the strategy and consultation phase by next May before a bid preparation phase between June 2017 and December 2018. Bids will be evaluated between January 2019 and February 2020 and the vote — originally planned for 2017 before FIFA was beset by corruption scandals — will be staged in May 2020.

Unlike past votes, the entire FIFA membership, which is currently 209 nations, will decide the hosts at a congress.

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