The Three Amigos are not only going to the World Cup, they are hosting it. The US, Canada and Mexico on Wednesday won the right to put on the 2026 football spectacle. The lion’s share of the 80 matches will feature in the US, with 60, while Canada and Mexico will each host 10. This will mark the third time Mexico hosts the World Cup, after 1970 and 1986.
The United 2026 bid won 134 votes of the total 203 cast in a showdown against Morocco. Unsurprisingly, the majority of African countries participating voted for Morocco, while in the Americas only Brazil failed to give the United bid a nod. Oceania voted unanimously for the United bid.
One of the reasons given for United’s victory was the fact that most of the infrastructure is already in place across Canada, the US and Mexico. “Other recent and planned World Cups, such as South Africa 2010, Brazil 2014 or Qatar 2022, all required expensive and financially risky stadium and infrastructure investments from their hosts,” Dr Alex Gillett from the University of York’s Management School told Press Association Sport. “In contrast, the Canada, US and Mexico World Cup should present less difficulties to its organizers and to FIFA because existing stadiums should be usable with a few adjustments.”
Twenty-three stadiums across North America are on the shortlist and 16 will make the final cut, three of which will be in Mexico. According to NBC, Guadalajara, Monterrey and the capital Mexico City are expected to host Mexico’s 10 games. Three of Mexico’s largest stadiums are located in these cities: Azteca in Mexico City with a capacity of 81,070, Akron in Guadalajara with a capacity of 49,850 and the BBVA Bancomer Stadium in Monterrey that can hold 51,348 people.
Typically, World Cups include 32 teams but this will be the first with 48. While the existing ticket sales record stands at 3.6 million, the United bid also promised to sell 5.8 million tickets and promised $11 billion in profits to FIFA, compared to $5 billion pledged by Morocco. These factors suggest a higher rate of tourism and a higher demand for infrastructure.
The 2014 World Cup in Brazil attracted 600,000 tourists and the current games in Russia are anticipated to welcome 1 million football fans. With many more expected at 2026, how does Mexico measure up in terms of infrastructure? Although the stadiums already exist, the infrastructure required for a World Cup bid go far beyond the site of the games.
Here is a look at the country’s key sector and how they score on a scale of 1 (foul) to 5 (hattrick). Read on to find out if any score an own goal!
In 2017, Mexico ranked No. 8 as the most visited country in the world for tourism, meaning it is well aware of how to deal with high tourism flows. However, much of the tourism in Mexico is focused on the beach and coastal locations, which Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara certainly are not. The influx of tourists to the already-saturated metropolises (over 21 million people are estimated to live in ZMVM alone) could cause major problems without infrastructure upgrades.
In Mexico City, for example, mobility may be an issue as cars rule the road. Public transport such as the Metro is already saturated, in 2015 moving over 1.6 billion people, which equates to about 4.3 million per day. Add an extra 1 million for a couple weeks and the carriages would be jam-packed. While the introduction of BRT Metrobus has made moving around easier, it takes a great deal of space away from cars and is concentrated only in main areas such as Reforma and Insurgentes. Neither the Metro or Metrobus stop close to Azteca stadium; instead revelers would have to change to the Light Train at Tasqueña station.
The first phase of Mexico City’s new megaproject NAIM is slated to be finished by 2020, in time for the 2026 games provided it is completed on time (or at all, if Presidential frontrunner Andrés Manuel López Obrador has anything to do with it). This phase will include one terminal and will have a daily capacity of 191,000.
The third-largest in Mexico, Guadalajara’s international Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla airport in 2017 received 12.8 million passengers. With regular flights to the US and Canada by Mexican airlines Volaris, Interjet and Aéromexico, this could be an ideal route for fans.
Monterrey International Airport follows close behind in fourth place. It is considered one of the most modern airports in North America and its traffic is around 9 million per year, although 85 percent of this is attributed to domestic flights. It serves various locations in the US including Las Vegas, New York and Los Angeles but there are no direct flights to Canada.
Russia plans to provide more than 700 free trains to ticket holders across 5,500km of railway lines. This will help ease traffic and move fans quickly and efficiently between stadiums. But despite Mexico’s pre-revolutionary fame for its train lines, there is very little existing rail infrastructure and most is privately-owned by companies such as Kansas City Southern and Ferromex.
The most common way to travel city by city is by highway, which can be problematic. According to figures, 55 people die daily on Mexico’s highways and double that figure escape accidents with a serious injury. What’s more, Mexico’s more popular routes, such as Mexico City-Puebla, Mexico City-Queretaro and Mexico City-Cuernavaca can experience standstill traffic during busy periods. Although driving between Mexico’s World Cup cities would be unlikely since the shortest distance is between Mexico City and Guadalajara and takes over six hours (without traffic).
The telecommunications industry in Mexico is dominated mainly by two companies: Telmex and Carlos Slim’s América Móvil, and monopolies are rarely a good sign for competitiveness. But the OECD says the Telecommunications Reform, introduced in 2014, has helped increase access to mobile and broadband services. The Red Compartida is an initiative that was designed to increase competition by developing a 700MHz platform. América Móvil owns most of the telecommunications infrastructure in Mexico and the goal of Red Compartida is to create infrastructure for everyone. The project will eventually give coverage to 92.2 percent of the population with a deadline of 2022, plenty of time before the World Cup arrives.
Water services in Mexico are disproportionately spread out and areas in the north of the country tend to put much greater pressure on water resources due to warm, dry climates. Meanwhile, in the south, there is an abundance of rainfall and generally fewer citizens to share it. Mexico City, with its 9 million inhabitants frequently faces issues with water. The Director of Mexico City’s water system SACMEX has previously warned that without an increase in budget for water infrastructure, the system will collapse.
Similarly, in Monterrey, Gerardo Garza, Director General of SADM told Mexico Infrastructure & Sustainability Review 2018 that the current system in the city is unsustainable due to an overreliance on subsidies. “People are used to paying very little for the resource and it makes it hard to adjust the tariffs to the real cost of water and its treatment,” he said. “These prices are not sustainable and it forces municipalities to request money from the federal budget to meet the costs of basic infrastructure.” With such a burden placed on municipalities and the subsidy system looking unlikely to change any time soon, World Cup fans may well find themselves facing water issues.
Strangely, there is not only a shortage of water but there is also too much. Summer season in Mexico – typically when the World Cup is help – comes with flood-related challenges. Built on a lake, lack of proper drainage means Mexico City floods and traffic gets backed up as 9 million plus people try to stay dry. This could pose an additional logistics challenge for the games.
While its limited supply of water is being depleted, Mexico’s landfills are being filled to the brim. In 2015, Mexico generated 53.1 million tons of solid waste, which is a 61.2 percent increase from 2013, according to SEMARNAT’s 2015 report on waste. This averages out to 1.2kg of waste per inhabitant on a daily basis. With more than 1 million extra visitors due to the World Cup and a growing population, these numbers should climb even higher.
Governmental authorities report that over 64 percent of urban solid waste in the Mexican collection system end up in landfills while only 5 percent is recycled and five states alone create 46 percent of the country’s waste: the State of Mexico (6.7 million tons), Mexico City (4.9 million tons), Jalisco (3.1 million tons), Veracruz (2.3 million tons) and Nuevo Leon (2.2 million tons).
But according to the National Association for the Plastic Industry (ANIPAC), the recycling market in Mexico is worth US$3 billion, and growing 10 percent every year. In 2016, BMV-listed waste-management company Promotora Ambiental (PASA) reported profits over MX$3.5 billion. This firm controls 33 percent of the private formal trash collection market, 19 percent of domestic concession collection and 33 percent of the final waste landfill market.
In May 2017, SUEMA became the first company to install a biodigester in Mexico, which was also the first of its kind in Latin America. “To convince the public sector to invest in these types of projects, we first began offering support in the expansion of the biggest compost plant in Bordo Poniente five years ago,” says Mojica. “With that we began earning their trust and gaining a reputation for our work.” If the public sector continues to invest in these initiatives, there could be a solution to Mexico’s waste problems by 2026.
If they’re going to spend that US$11 billion, tourists will need reliable banking infrastructure to withdraw their cash. Unfortunately, Mexico’s banking industry is not quite as developed as that in Canada and the US. According to Milenio, 56 percent of the population in Mexico still do not have a bank account. But according to Francisco Martínez, Senior Manager of Added Value Services at revolutionary mobile service Samsung Pay, Mexico may leapfrog traditional banking services that require infrastructure like branches and ATMs.
Technologies such as Samsung Pay and Apple Pay allow users to pay directly using cellphones, without the need for a credit card or even a bank account. Four months after the Samsung Pay service was launched in Mexico, it had already registered 200,000 users. “We expect the number of users to continue to grow significantly and that it becomes more common for users to start using their digital wallet,” Martínez told Economista. By 2026, this technology is expected to be widespread in Mexico although hopefully issues with digital payment systems can be ironed out before then.