Blatter wants new rule helping US bid for 2026 World Cup

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ZURICH (AP) — FIFA President Sepp Blatter wants to implement a rule that would prevent Europe from bidding for the 2026 World Cup, improving the chances of the United States to host the tournament.

The FIFA executive committee could agree this month to block continental confederations from bidding for the following two World Cups after hosting.

"It should be this way," Blatter said Friday, adding that the proposal is "more than an option."

In a further hint at World Cup changes, Blatter pointed to increasing the number of intercontinental playoffs to give confederations more chances to qualify teams for the 2018 tournament in Russia. Blatter also said he wanted the World Cup to remain a 32-team tournament under his leadership.

Because Russia will host in 2018, a UEFA country would next be eligible for the 2030 World Cup if the continental rule is passed.

The United States is expected to bid for the 2026 tournament alongside CONCACAF neighbors Canada and Mexico. African countries could also join the contest, with speculation that Morocco is preparing a bid.

FIFA has said it will choose the 2026 host in a May 2017 vote. A shortlist of three candidates can first be presented by the executive committee.

Bid regulations for the contest — the first since December 2010 when a controversial joint process for the 2018 and 2022 tournament chose Russia and Qatar, respectively, as hosts — should be agreed to by the FIFA executive committee in Zurich this month.

The executive committee meets on May 24-25 and again on May 30, the morning after the presidential election which Blatter is strongly favored to win.

The May 30 meeting will confirm the allocation of 2018 World Cup qualifying slots open to each confederation.

Blatter has long encouraged smaller regions to seek more guaranteed places, potentially at the expense of Europe's 13 qualifying slots in the 32-team lineup.

On Friday, Blatter said the current intercontinental playoffs could be expanded. Currently, the playoffs do not involve European or African teams.

"That is a good idea and you are not so far away," Blatter said. "This gives a little bit more incentive."

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