By Brian Homewood
ZURICH (Reuters) - European countries will be able to bid to host the 2026 World Cup only if none of the eligible candidates are good enough, soccer's governing body said on Friday.
In a further boost to a possible joint bid from the United States, Mexico and Canada in 2026, FIFA said that co-hosting would be permitted and there would be no restriction on the number of countries in a given bid.
The FIFA Council agreed to the "general principle that member associations from confederations of the last two hosts of the FIFA World Cup will be ineligible to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup," FIFA said
As Russia and Qatar will host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups respectively, the decision means that neither European nor Asian countries will be eligible to stage the tournament in 2026.
"It limits the numbers of confederations that are bidding," Sunil Gulati, president of the United States Football Federation, told reporters.
"We will look at it, we have got great relationships with Canada and Mexico, we also have a country with 320 million people that has hosted a World Cup with a lot of terrific stadiums and great infrastructure."
However, no bid will be formally made until the process has been finalised.
"We won't make a decision until hosting until we know what the rules are," he said
"We now know some of those rules, about the eligibility, we don't know the size of the tournament and until we see those and there is a lot of clarity....in the process, then we'll make a decision about it."
The U.S. hosted the 1994 World Cup and made an unsuccessful bid for the 2022 tournament. Mexico hosted the 1970 and 1986 World Cups. The only World Cup to have been co-hosted was in 2002 when Japan and South Korea shared it.
FIFA said European, but not Asian, bids could be authorized "in the event that none of the received bids fulfil the strict technical and financial requirements".
(Editing by Ed Osmond)