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CONCACAF to mull joint World Cup bid; Trump wall no concern

By Simon Evans

By Simon Evans

MIAMI (Reuters) - CONCACAF will discuss a possible joint bid for the 2026 World Cup and the governing body's president said on Thursday a planned wall along the U.S.-Mexico border would not present an obstacle to co-hosting the event.

Victor Montagliani, speaking to Reuters by telephone hours after FIFA said it would encourage co-hosting for the 2026 World Cup, said a three-way bid with the United States, Mexico and Canada was one option but did not rule out games in Central America or the Caribbean.

For Montagliani, head of the governing body for soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean, FIFA's welcoming of joint bids and the expansion of the tournament to 48 teams from 32 in 2026 meant a multinational bid made sense.

"Especially with 48 teams and the increased infrastructure that requires, not so much from a stadium standpoint but training facilities, hotels and all the other things, having the opportunity with three or more countries that are geographically close, it would be reasonable," said Montagliani.

"Probably in short order, here in CONCACAF, we will sit at a table and see how we are going to move forward."

FIFA president Gianni Infantino said earlier on Thursday the organization would encourage applications to co-host the 2026 World Cup and that the event could be split between up to four countries.

Montagliani, when asked if an expanded tournament featuring 80 games meant there was also a possibility for some group stage games to be held in Central America or the Caribbean, said anything is possible.

"You have to look at the economics as well, weigh in the cost-benefit, but I think the possibilities are endless, to be honest with you, when you have that many games," Montagliani said. "You can't close the door on any opportunities."

The 2018 World Cup will be in Russia while Qatar hosts the tournament in 2022.

The CONCACAF region is widely viewed as favorite to host the 2026 tournament given FIFA rules that restrict Europe and Asia from hosting again so quickly.

The United States hosted the 1994 World Cup while Mexico hosted in 1970 and 1986. Canada has never hosted the tournament but successfully hosted the Women's World Cup in 2015.

U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati has said his federation has yet to decide whether to bid alone for 2026 or jointly with Canada and/or Mexico.

Montagliani said he did not believe that a controversial border wall to stem illegal immigration, which was one of U.S. President Donald Trump's biggest campaign promises, would have any negative impact on a bid from the region.

"Not withstanding some of the politics that is occurring in this part of the world, Trump has been pretty consistent in his support of global events and sport throughout his career as a businessman. I am not sure I would see that necessarily changing now that he is a president," said Montagliani.

"It is important, if we are going to do something like this, that we get it right from a football and administration end before we start worrying about anything above that. But I am also confident that a World Cup, the only thing of its kind would, no pun intended, trump politics."

(Editing by Frank Pingue/Steve Keating.)