Mexico, which has 45 percent of its population living in poverty, could end up spending billions of dollars to host the 2026 World Cup. At least according to some international soccer officials.
Interest in hosting the event re-surfaced in Mexico this week after an official from CONCACAF — the association that regulates professional soccer in Central and North America — declared that his organization would lobby FIFA to host the tournament.
CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb said this week that the association was very interested in backing a bid by the U.S., Canada or Mexico to host the 2026 World Cup.
"Our main goal in the short term, is to host a World Cup." Webb told Costa Rican newspaper La Nacion on Tuesday. The Mexican press quickly picked up on his comments.
The World Cups of 2018 and 2022 have been given to Russia and the uber-wealthy desert nation of Qatar respectively. The last time that a CONCACAF country hosted the World Cup was in 1994, when the tournament took place in the United States.
"It's been too long," Webb told the Costa Rican press.
Webb said that the three countries he cited — Mexico, the U.S. and Canada - are the only members of CONCACAF with appropriate conditions to host the tournament. The other countries affiliated with the federation are are small nations in Central America and the Caribbean that only have one or at the most two stadiums of any considerable size.
Mexico has several stadiums that fit FIFA's standard of more than 40,000 people, and one venue, the Azteca stadium, with a 90,000 plus capacity.
But is Mexico, which hosted the cup in 1986, ready for a 21st Century World Cup?
Soccer officials here seem to think it's a realistic possibility, and they've been talking about it for the past two years.
"As a Concacaf member we are indeed fighting for the World Cup" Mexican soccer federation president Justino Compean said in a press conference back in September of 2012.
"There is strong competition with the United States for the bid, and its hard to tell whether we will have the capability to host the event or not, because it’s 14 years ahead. But I can tell you that Mexican soccer infrastructure continues to grow," Compean said.
Of course, Mexico, which has 45 percent of its people still living in poverty will have to consider the costs of hosting the tournament.
Holding such an event would probably require a substantial amount of government investment in infrastructure and security.
Brazil for example, has spent more than $3.5 billion in stadiums, and up to $12 billion in other infrastructure projects for the 2014 World Cup, such as public transportation systems in host cities.
Mexico's annual government budget for 2014 currently stands at $342 billion according to Bloomberg News.
So that would make World Cup expenditures of $15 billion or so absorbable. On the other hand, many Mexicans still lack access to basic services.
According to a survey conducted last year by Mexico's Council for the Evaluation of Social Policy, 13.6 percent of Mexico's population lives in overcrowded homes, and 21.5 percent lack access to proper healthcare.
These numbers are slowly falling as Mexico becomes more prosperous. But the decline in poverty has been slow in Mexico, relative to countries like Brazil, which cut its poverty rate by 9 percent from 2007 to 2012 — It stands at just 15 percent of the population according to the World Bank.
Even with such staggering economic advances Brazil has faced an intense series of protests in the lead up to its World Cup, with demonstrators arguing that public funds should be going to hospitals and schools, instead of brand new multi million dollar stadiums.
If Mexico's finances cannot handle a World Cup, there are, of course, two wealthier CONCACAF countries that could bid, the U.S. and Canada.
So far, the U.S. Soccer Federation has been quiet about its aspirations since it was turned down for the 2022 World Cup, though that could soon change.
But the Canadian Soccer Association has already released a strategic four year plan that includes plans for a World Cup bid.
Canada has a negligible soccer tradition, and has not qualified to the World Cup since 1986. But its per capita income is five time greater than Mexico's, and its citizens already have good healthcare coverage.
Of course, there are some disadvantages to hosting a World Cup in Canada. Read more about Canada's prospects here:
And here is some more info on the costs of Brazil's World Cup.
Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.