Saturday 25 February 2023, 09:30

Gianni Infantino: FIFA World Cup 2026™ will ‘change the balance in football’

  • The FIFA President tells delegates at the UNCAF Congress that exciting development opportunities await 

  • The next edition of the FIFA World Cup™ will allow for at least six Concacaf nations to participate

  • Mr Infantino also paid tribute to outgoing UNCAF President, Rafael Tinoco

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has told member association Presidents gathered at the Congress of the Central Football Union (UNCAF), that the next edition of the FIFA World Cup™ provides unprecedented opportunities for football development across not only North America, but Central America too.

Mr Infantino was speaking at the 22nd UNCAF Ordinary Congress in Antigua, Guatemala, where he addressed the presidents and senior leaderships of the member associations of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama, at an event that was also attended by FIFA Vice-President and Concacaf President Victor Montagliani. 

“We'll have the [FIFA] World Cup 2026 next door,” the FIFA President explained. “Congratulations for the qualification of Mexico, Canada and the United States, who already qualified for this [FIFA] World Cup last week through the FIFA Council's decision, but in addition to those three, three more Concacaf teams will qualify for sure, and possibly even five.”

President Infantino continued: “This next [FIFA] World Cup in North America is going to be the [FIFA] World Cup of America; it's going to be the [FIFA] World Cup that will change the balance in football, because we are going to focus our work in this part of the world.”

FIFA President Gianni Infantino attends the XXII UNCAF Ordinary Congress

As well as the enhanced opportunities created by the expanded FIFA World Cup, Mr Infantino was also keen to focus on the continually growing FIFA Forward commitment to football development across the region since his first election as President in 2016.

“In those seven years, we have grown seven-fold; the FIFA Forward programme, and the solidarity funds that FIFA provide to federations. We have raised the minimum amount up to USD 8 million in this cycle, some USD 5 million to UNCAF that did not exist before. You do an outstanding and wonderful job in this part of the world. It's also thanks to your unique passion for football in Central America.”

Mr Infantino also took time to pay tribute to outgoing UNCAF President Rafael Tinoco – who was standing down from the position he held since 2007, to be succeeded by Pedro Chaluja following the Congress.

Finally, President Infantino congratulated the member associations present for a number of recent successes – in the men’s and women’s game – including Panama for their recent qualification to the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™. 

He also offered congratulatory words to Costa Rica, who will also be present in Australia & New Zealand in July and August 2023; to Guatemala and Honduras for their qualifications to the FIFA U-20 World Cup Indonesia 2023™, and to Panama again for their confirmed berth at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Peru 2023™.