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CONCACAF pushing ahead with 2026 World Cup bid

By Julian Linden

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Aggrieved at missing out on the chance to host either the 2018 or 2022 World Cups, the governing body for soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean is adamant it should be given the 2026 tournament.

CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb said it was only fair that the region should be awarded the 2026 World Cup after losing its place in the queue when the world's governing body FIFA scrapped its rotational policy after selecting Brazil as the 2014 host.

The subsequent decision by FIFA to award the 2018 tournament to Russia then 2022 to Qatar meant that CONCACAF would have to wait at least 32 years between tournaments after the United States hosted the 1994 World Cup.

"From a CONCACAF perspective, our focus for the World Cup is 2026. We're committed to that," Webb told a select group of journalists at a meeting in midtown Manhattan on Tuesday.

"That's not about the USA hosting the World Cup, for us it's about a confederation standpoint.

"CONCACAF was obviously hard done (by) when (the) rotation stopped, we were the ones who lost out because it should have been our turn after Brazil. When the rotation stopped, obviously it impacted us the most."

Although FIFA scrapped its rotation policy, it did introduce a new rule stipulating that countries could not host the World Cup if another nation from their confederations had staged either of the past two.

This rule means that Europe and Asia are already out of the running for 2026, leaving CONCACAF as the frontrunners to win the vote ahead of any possible bids from Africa, South America or Oceania.

The U.S., Canada and Mexico have all expressed interest in hosting the 2026 World Cup but Webb said it was paramount that the region threw its weight behind one bid, although he did not rule out the possibility of a co-hosting arrangement.

"Obviously we believe our best chances is to put one member forward, one country forward, one bid forward, that gives us our best opportunity," he said.

"CONCACAF has 35 votes and of course if you split those votes amongst ourselves you're defeating the purpose."

The only co-hosted World Cup finals so far were organized by Japan and South Korea in 2002. The tournament presented some logistical problems because Japan and South Korea had separate committee.

FIFA has since said that any future joint bids would have to be organized under a single committee, raising the prospect that the U.S. could join forces with either Mexico or Canada for 2026 if the countries could reach an agreement.

"I think it is very much possible," said Webb.

"FIFA did it in the past in 2002 with Japan and Korea and the experience from that was not too well.

"Obviously there are various costs and so forth increased by having two different local organizing committees in two different countries so from that standpoint I thought it (2002) was a logistical nightmare from my memory, but definitely it's a possibility."

(Reporting by Julian Linden, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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