The day before the official beginning of this year’s World Cup, the world was treated to some information about the 2026 World Cup. Indeed, it definitely promises to be something different. In more ways than one, the tournament will be expanding, which could definitely be a big boost for the sport on the global level – especially in an area where, historically, it has lagged behind other domestic sports. However, as with most rewards, this expansion carries a higher risk, which could easily turn into a logistical nightmare for the hosts, FIFA, and all of the participating countries.
What makes this upcoming (after Qatar) World Cup different is, well, everything. Essentially, for all of its history, the World Cup has been a lot like the Olympics: though there’s a bidding process, the decision typically comes down to one host in one location (with the sole exception being Japan/South Korea in 2002). Though interest by the individual nations was first shown in 2012 before the joint announcement of a North American bid – dubbed the United 2026 bid – in 2017, this will mark the first time that the World Cup has been hosted by 3 countries (the United States, Canada, and Mexico).
Additionally, the overall format of the tournament itself will be expanded: the current 32 team structure will be expanded to 48 teams, resulting in an increase from 64 total matches to 80, and the 8-group/4-team group stage will be replaced by a 16-group/3-team group stage, though it will still produce the same number of teams for the knockout stage. Simply put, FIFA is hoping that, by expanding the number of venue settings, hosts, and teams competing, it will provide a more exciting, varied, and inclusive experience.
Looking at some of the preliminary numbers, it seems as if FIFA has every right to be optimistic. Compared to Russia’s average venue size of 49,300 seats, the 23 candidate host cities of United 2026 boast an average of 55,000 seats (along with 150 proposed training sites). An October 2017 survey of North American adults showed that 77% are in favour of hosting the World Cup, 81% think it will be beneficial for their individual country, and 57% would be interested in attending matches played in a nearby venue. All together, this has led to some impressive projections: 5.8 million ticket sales generating USD 2.5 billion; commercial hospitality of USD 1 to 1.5 billion; media revenue possibly in excess of USD 5 billion; a projected revenue of USD 14 billion; and, staggeringly, a projected profit of USD 11 billion (considering that Brazil 2014’s profit was a mere USD 2.6 billion).
While hosting a giant month-long soccer party in a region of approximately 489 million people with a GDP of USD 23.424 trillion is enough to set all economic expectations high, the logistics of such an undertaking are possible to turn a fantasy into a nightmare. Of course, all World Cups involve logistics and organisation – with different teams, training facilities, venues, fans/hospitality, and language needs; however, by adding teams, matches, and having 3 different hosts, each with separate languages- Spanish in Mexico, English and Spanish in the United States, as well as English and French in Canada – this has the potential to multiply issues, especially with the added complication of crossing international borders. Outside of the tournament organisation itself, there will be an outgoing need for professional translation and interpreting services at the venues and in the local hospitality industries (to accommodate all of the incoming fans/supporters).
All things considered, United 2026 has a tremendous potential to grow the game in 2 key markets (the US & Canada) and to solidify the game in Mexico through hosting 3 World Cups, but, truly, it’s a risk. The hosting countries and all parties and business involved have 8 years to prepare and EVS Translations – as a global translation and business services company with more than 25 years of experience in servicing sport associations and their sponsors – is here to help. The extensive portfolio of language services covers the areas of law (licensing and sponsorship agreements, information on ticket allocation), finance and taxes (audits and tax-related documents for athletes and sports organisations, online payment platforms), HR (internal policies, employment contracts, health & safety), medicine (medical investigation reports, doping regulations), PR (press releases, media conferences, social media), and marketing (online marketing and SEO, web translations, voice-overs and subtitles, transcreation and print-ready marketing assets).