The United States, Mexico and Canada will host the 2026 World Cup after a clear victory over underdogs Morocco in a vote by FIFA member nations yesterday.
The joint North American bid received 134 of the 203 votes, while Morocco polled 65 in the ballot at a FIFA Congress held in Moscow on the eve of the 2018 World Cup.
It means global football’s showpiece event will return to the North American continent for the first time since 1994 when the United States hosted the tournament.
Bid leader Carlos Cordeiro said his team was “humbled by the trust our colleagues in the FIFA family have put in our bid”.
He said the tournament had an opportunity to put football “on a new and sustainable path for generations to come.”
It will be the first World Cup to be expanded to 48 teams, posing an enormous logistical challenge for the hosts, one of the issues that is thought to have undermined the Moroccan bid.
US President Donald Trump tweeted: “The US, together with Mexico and Canada, just got the World Cup. Congratulations — a great deal of hard work!”
The North American bid had been deeply concerned by Trump’s threat during the bidding process that nations that did not support it should not expect US support on other issues.
Bid leaders were worried the FIFA vote could essentially become a referendum on Trump.
That prompted Cordeiro to plead ahead of the ballot to make their decision on the merits of the bid, “not geopolitics”.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino was believed to have strongly backed North America behind the scenes because the trio of countries involved supported him in 2016 when he took over after the corruption-tainted reign of Sepp Blatter.
Delegates had been faced with a clear choice in the 2026 vote.
The joint North American bid boasted modern, established stadiums and well-developed transport links underpinned by Mexican football fervour.
Morocco, on the other hand, promised a “European” World Cup in Africa, playing on its proximity to Europe and an appeal to take the tournament back to the African continent for just the second time.
But compared to North America, Morocco’s bid existed largely on paper — many stadiums and roads would have had to have been built and critics questioned how it would have coped with an expanded tournament.
FIFA inspectors classified the north African nation’s stadiums, accommodation and transport as “high risk”, awarding it just 2.7 out of five in an evaluation report, with concerns raised over several critical aspects.
They warned “the amount of new infrastructure required for the Morocco 2026 bid to become reality cannot be overstated”.
The report made the US-Canada-Mexico bid the clear favourite after rating it four out of five, and Morocco was not able to bridge the gap.
$11bn profit pledge
The 1994 World Cup in the United States set an attendance record that still stands, with nearly 3.6mn spectators for only 52 matches.
That suggests that North American bid leaders’ promises to deliver a record $11bn profit for the 2026 tournament are feasible.
The decision will be a shot in the arm for football in the US, after the national team failed to qualify for 2018 in a huge setback for the game there.
It will also be celebrated in football-crazy Mexico, which hosted the World Cup in 1970 and in 1986 — the tournament remembered for Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal.
But the result was a bitter blow for Morocco after a fifth failed bid. In 2010 it lost out to South Africa, which became the first African host.
Morocco was quick to congratulate the winner, tweeting “#Maroc2026 congratulates @United2026 on their victory.”
The Moroccan bid had enlisted the support of the British communications agency that helped London and Paris land the 2012 and 2024 Olympics.
France, in particular, lobbied behind the scenes for French-speaking Morocco and the bid had the support of most African nations.
FIFA president Infantino to run for re-election in 2019
FIFA President Gianni Infantino said yesterday he will run for re-election as head of soccer’s global governing body.
Speaking at the FIFA Congress in Moscow on the eve of the World Cup, the Swiss-Italian said he would present his candidacy for elections taking place in Paris in June 2019.
Infantino was elected to the post in February 2016.
“I want another four years of it because I believe in what I do,” Infantino said after the congress. “I believe in what I can do for FIFA and for football.”
Infantino said his tenure had seen a significant improvement in the organisation’s finances.
“I feel as well a lot of support from many around the world who want to see a strong FIFA, who want to see a FIFA who is present, a FIFA who is helping to address their issues about football development,” he added.
LEAVE A COMMENT Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*
Poland’s mishaps help Senegal claim first African win
Japan sink 10-man Colombia in historic win for Asia
Germany loss a warning for Spain ahead of Iran clash
Ronaldo seeks encore vs ‘battle-hardened’ Morocco
Russia on verge of World Cup last 16 after beating Egypt
Sri Lanka captain Chandimal banned for ball tampering
Hales and Bairstow lead England to world record score
All-rounder Stokes out of England T20 squad
Latinos around the world unite — once every four years