The US is the first Anglophone country to be invited to join the Francophone University Agency (AUF), an association of 400 higher education and research centres in 30 countries.
Several New York schools may be admitted to membership of the organisation by next year if their applications are submitted and approved in December.
AUF director Mich le Gendreau-Massaloux said: "In many important American universities, there are excellent French speakers among the students and faculty."
The fact that the US should be invited ahead of the UK seems unconnected with the cooling of relations between the UK and France after the spat between Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac.
Ms Gendreau-Massaloux said that, in view of the UK's falling demand for modern languages, "I am not sure British universities would want to make the agency a priority."
John D. Edwards, vice-president of the Inter-university Mission for the Coordination of Franco-American Exchanges, said the City University of New York was particularly cosmopolitan. "Altogether 173 languages or dialects are spoken among the 316,000 students at CUNY."