A host country for the 2026 World Cup will be decided in May 2020 ©Getty Images

The host nation for the 2026 FIFA World Cup will be decided in May 2020 following the conclusion of a four-phase bidding process, world football’s governing body announced here today at the end of the first-ever meeting of its ruling Council.

A new strategy and consultation phase has been initiated, which will focus on four key areas, including the number of teams. 

FIFA is expected to decide on the amount of participating nations in October of this year along with the eligibility of confederations as the organisation ponders continental rotation of its flagship event.

President Gianni Infantino, elected as the head of the organisation at an Extraordinary Congress in Zurich in February, had pledged to expand FIFA’s flagship quadrennial competition from 32 to 40 teams in his manifesto.

Countries will now have to demonstrate they meet human rights requirements, which have been a thorn in the side of FIFA and organisers due to rampant abuse at construction sites for the Qatar 2022 World Cup, in order to be eligible to enter the race.

It appears to be a move from FIFA to avoid a repeat of the situation in the Gulf nation which has plagued the country’s preparations in the build-up to the event.

An independent report released last month, compiled by John Ruggie, a professor at Harvard Kennedy School in Massachusetts and one of the world's foremost human rights experts, urged FIFA to ensure tackling human rights issues is one of its primary goals.

Bidders that do not meet the technical requirements can now be excluded at the first stage, while FIFA will also conduct a review of the possibility of nations launching joint bids.

FIFA has only ever held one joint World Cup, in Japan and South Korea in 2002, but has since discouraged co-hosting.

Argentina and Uruguay, however, have already expressed an interest in the 2030 World Cup and their joint-effort has already been given the backing of the FIFA President.

Any future World Cup bidders must also abide by human rights regulations following the abuses seen at construction sites for 2022 World Cup venues
Any future World Cup bidders must also abide by human rights regulations following the abuses seen at construction sites for 2022 World Cup venues ©Getty Images

Infantino told CONMEBOL officials that he was not against co-hosting the 2030 tournament, suggesting the history of Argentina and Uruguay make them strong candidates to commemorate the centenary edition.

The consultation phase will precede the bid preparation stage, due to commence in June 2017 and last until the following December.

Bids will then be evaluated between January 2019 and February 2020 before a host is selected in May.

Infantino had long stressed the need to begin the hunt for a destination for the tournament in 10 years’ time, which was suspended in June of last year in the wake of the corruption scandal engulfing world football’s governing body.

Several candidates for the 2026 World Cup have already emerged, with the United States seen as the early favourites.

The Swiss has denied offering any promises to the nation after the extensive lobbying work done by American FIFA Council member Sunil Gulati, which helped him win February's election.

Other bids could come from Canada, Colombia and Mexico.