The North American bid of the United States, Canada and Mexico will host the 2026 World Cup finals after winning the FIFA vote ahead of Morocco on Wednesday in Moscow.
The joint bid had been the front-runner for the 48-team tournament from the moment a North American coalition was first mooted two years ago, and there have been spells when it has looked like the only credible candidate.
But Morocco, bidding for a fifth time, had closed the gap on ‘United 2026’ to the point that nobody in Moscow wanted to make a public prediction ahead of the vote at the FIFA Congress, where 207 member associations, minus the four bidding nations, cast ballots.
210 members were present with 203 members entitled to vote. The US, Mexico and Canada received 134 votes (67 percent) with the Morocco bid earning 65 votes.
“It’s a bit emotional for us today,” US Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro told FIFA congress.
“Thank you so, so very much for this incredible honour. Thank you for entrusting us with the privilege of hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2026.
“The beautiful game transcends borders and cultures. Football today is the only victor. And in that spirit we wish all Russian hosts and all the teams competing here the very best of luck.”
FIFA offered a glowing technical assessment of the United bid – but subjective factors could have influenced votes. After controversy surrounded the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 finals in Qatar, the vote was the first to be decided by the FIFA congress.
Chief among those is US President Donald Trump, whose ‘America First’ approach might score well with his electoral base but may have made the United bid’s task harder than it could ever have imagined.
— 360Nobs.com (@360Nobs) June 13, 2018
The United bid will, however, be of huge appeal to the FIFA bean-counters as the bid team claims the ability to generate a projected profit of more than £8 billion for the governing body.
Morocco has largely avoided competing with the North Americans in a dash for cash.
To do so would have invited ridicule when it needed to build or renovate the 14 stadiums it wants to use – a task FIFA’s technical report said “cannot be overstated”.
So Morocco concentrated its pitch on the country’s undisputed passion for football, the notion that Africa deserves another World Cup after South Africa 2010, its far more compact offering and Euro-friendly time zone.
Both bids made their final appeals to UEFA voters in Moscow on Tuesday, with Morocco and United expected to get a vast show of support from their respective confederations.
Just to add to the complexity, there was a third option for all voters: neither Morocco or United and we would have had to start a new bidding process.