Whilst the eyes of the footballing world are currently focused on Russia 2018, in under a week FIFA are set to announce the destination of the 2026 World Cup.

Football’s main governing body will choose between either a joint bid from The United States, Mexico and Canada or a bid from the North African nation of Morocco.

SBCAmericas caught up with the President of Don Best Sports Benjie Cherniak, who detailed how hosting the World Cup could elevate the popularity of football in the region as well as how betting operators could benefit from a US based World Cup.

SBC: What could hosting the World Cup mean for the popularity of soccer in the US?

Benjie Cherniak: The last time the US hosted the World Cup was in 1994 and it raises the profile of the sport significantly as it was the trigger to kickstart a new professional league in the MLS. That was then and this is now. Each World Cup since has arguably added to the popularity of the event and sport in the US, albeit much more so when the US team participates in the tournament, which embarrassingly is not the case this coming June.

2026 is a long way off so we should see some continuing popularity growth between now and then, such that a North American hosted World Cup could conceivably be a catalyst to migrate the sport from secondary interest to mainstream, particularly if the US fields a competitive team that makes a deep tournament run.

SBC: How much could hosting the World Cup elevate the weekly levels of interest in the MLS from US Sports fans?

BC: Interest in MLS has been on the rise in general, particularly in select regions and some of the more recent new markets such as Atlanta, Orlando and the new LAFC teams. These franchises have seen new soccer-specific stadiums being built and 60-70k crowds (as per Atlanta). The Pacific Northwest as an example has always been a hotbed for the sport, led in large part by Seattle and Portland’s passionate fan base.

The interesting component of this World Cup bid is that it is North American wide, which includes Mexico and Canada. With a number of Canadian MLS teams in addition to the US, and with more big name players like Zlatan – but critically also younger talent like Sebastian Giovinco – migrating from European leagues to the MLS, the 2026 World Cup has the potential to invigorate the sport in an unprecedented manner. Continued success of the men and women’s national teams are co-related to the success of the MLS – though the MLS has matured considerably.

SBC: From a commercial standpoint, how much of an opportunity could the 2026 World Cup in America be for betting operators?

BC: By 2026, we likely have widespread legislated wagering across multiple and perhaps even the majority of US states. With some European operators in the space providing increased betting options for soccer, the sport will already have grown its profile significantly in the betting space.

You throw the world’s biggest sporting event into the mix across a country where betting is not just permitted but likely being promoted via partnerships with leagues and federations? This would without question be a massive event at sportsbooks across the country. One can rest assured that the summer of 2026 will not be a quiet one for the betting operators if the North American entry is fortunate enough to win this coveted bid.