MANAMA The ruling council of football's world governing body FIFA is likely to back a three-nation North American bid to host the 2026 World Cup when it meets on Tuesday in Bahrain.
With no rival bid having emerged, the organisers of the joint proposal from the United States, Mexico and Canada want a "non-competitive window" to prepare their detailed plan and then be given full, formal ratification in 2018.
A motion to fast-track the North American bid will be in front of FIFA's Congress on Thursday but the smaller leadership body, the FIFA Council, will give its verdict on the idea on Tuesday.
Frequently in FIFA politics, the guidance of the council, previously the executive committee, is loyally followed by the full membership, making Tuesday's meeting crucial for the North Americans.
While there is plenty of confidence around the three-nation bid, FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura said she was keen to ensure the council hears the plan in full before giving its voting guidance to congress.
"We will listen to what the three member associations are going to propose and then we will take it forward. We need more information before we can take it to congress," she told Reuters on Monday.
"The Council will be discussing the proposal and see how it has to go to the congress," she added, confirming that a recommendation on the vote would be made.
"What the administration is concerned about is that the bidding process is free, inclusive and transparent and we will make sure that the highest level of standards are respected and endorsed by anyone who would like to make a proposal to host the World Cup," said Samoura.
The proposal before congress from the three North American federations calls for a "principle decision" in favour of their bid and says they will aim to "satisfy the technical bid requirements by March 31, 2018".
Should those requirements be met, as those behind the bid believe they will be, the proposal calls for a final ratification at the 2018 FIFA Congress.
The approach is significantly faster than FIFA's original schedule of a bidding process concluding in 2020.
The three-nation bid already has plans in place to move quickly on creating a more formal structure as soon as they get the green light from FIFA's membership.
So far no rival bid for 2026 has emerged although there have been reports that Morocco could join the race.
The 2018 tournament will be held in Russia with Qatar hosting the finals in 2022.
FIFA's current rotation policy states that the continental confederation which held the previous two events cannot bid, ruling Europe and Asia out of the 2026 running.
FIFA have also voted to expand the World Cup to 48 teams for the 2026 edition, requiring more facilities to handle the increase to 80 games while also opening the door to joint bids.
The North American proposal is for 60 games in the U.S. with Mexico and Canada each getting 10 early stage matches.
(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Ken Ferris)