FIFA president Gianni Infantino told a regional congress in Guatemala on Saturday that the 2026 World Cup, which will be played in North America, will provide “unprecedented” opportunities for the development of Central American soccer.
“The next edition of the FIFA World Cup will provide unprecedented opportunities for the development of soccer not only throughout North America, but also in Central America,” Infantino said at the 22nd Ordinary Congress of the Central American Football Union (UNCAF), according to a statement from international soccer’s governing body.
The UNCAF Congress was held in the colonial city of Antigua Guatemala, host, along with Guatemala City, of the CONCACAF U-17 Championship, a qualifier for the Peru-2023 World Cup, which ends this Sunday with the final between the United States and Mexico.
In addition to the finalists, Panama and Canada earned their tickets to Peru-2023 by qualifying for the semifinals of the regional tournament.
Balance in soccer
The United States, Mexico and Canada will host the 2026 World Cup in which “three more CONCACAF teams will qualify for sure, and possibly even five,” Infantino specified.
“This next World Cup in North America is going to be the World Cup of America; it is going to be the World Cup (2026) that will change the balance in soccer, because we are going to focus our work in this part of the world,” added the FIFA chief.
The UNCAF Congress was attended by presidents and senior officials from the federations of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama.
During the meeting, the Panamanian Pedro Chaluja was elected as president of UNCAF for the 2023-2027 period, replacing Guatemalan Rafael Tinoco, who led the sports body for 16 years.
Among the “important points” of the Congress were the results of the competitions that have been held in the isthmus between October 2022 and February 2023, and the projection of the “minor category tournaments that are important for the area”, UNCAF indicated.
Infantino also highlighted the financial support to the region.
“In these seven years, we have increased sevenfold the FIFA Forward program and the solidarity funds that FIFA provides to the federations,” he said.
“We have raised the minimum amount to $8 million in this cycle; some $5 million to UNCAF that didn’t exist before. You do an extraordinary and wonderful job in this part of the world,” Infantino said, according to the bulletin.
Re-election in Concacaf
Infantino also took part in the 38th Concacaf Ordinary Congress in the same city with the presence of delegates from the 41 associations where its president, Canadian Victor Montagliani, was unanimously reelected for the 2023-2027 term.
Among Concacaf’s new projects, the construction of a “state-of-the-art” sports complex in the Dominican Republic was announced, “which will be a revolutionary initiative for soccer in the region,” the sports institution indicated.
“Ultimately, soccer is not about who has the most revenue, trophies or medals, but about people and our connection to each other through the game,” Montagliani stated.