Much of the discussion about the 2026 World Cup bid process has been met with the assumption that the US, Canada, and Mexico would easily be awarded the event. The three countries have the infrastructure and it will have been 32 years since a World Cup was hosted in North America while South Africa hosted the tournament in 2010. Still, the election is a competitive process and for months now there have been murmurs that Morocco could defy expectations and host the 2026 World Cup.
Those voices were heard again in a recent ESPN report by Sam Borden. According to an article published on Tuesday evening, “One official who is in regular contact with all of the continental confederations estimated that Morocco has the support of much of Asia and South America, as well as its home continent of Africa, which would put it over the 104 votes needed. All four bid nations cannot vote while the Guatemalan federation is currently suspended.” Borden went on to note that other sources claim the vote will be close but that Asian nations back the United 2026 bid.
Sunil Gulati, who is chairing the bid committee, commented about the report, telling ESPN, “We’ve never taken anything for granted in this process. We understand that in a competitive election -- and that’s what this is -- a lot of different things go into a decision.” Indeed, the decision of where to host the World Cup is a political process with different groups expressing their interests and preferences as they cast their ballots.
While it seems obvious that Morocco would not be as well equipped as the US, Mexico, and Canada to host the 48 team tournament, the country is telling a different story. According to Moroccan bid leader Hicham El Amrani, who spoke to The Independent earlier this month, the country is safer than many in Western Europe in addition to the US in terms of terrorist threats. Moreover, Morocco being a smaller country means that teams competing in the tournament will not have to cross an entire continent between matches. El Amrani also told Sports Illustrated that television scheduling will make the tournament more attractive to broadcasters in Europe.
While those practical matters may seem irrelevant compared to the difference in stadium infrastructure that is offered by the US, Canada, and Mexico, less tangible factors may play into the bid. As was noted in January of this year, reiterating a point that was brought up last February by FIFA Vice President Aleksander Ceferin, politics could play a role in determining who hosts the 2026 World Cup. Regardless of who is president in 2026, the US has certainly become historically unpopular around the world under the administration of President Donald Trump.
According to Borden, officials representing the United Bid are asked if the US will be a welcome destination for foreign visitors during the event. In response, the United Bid promoters have been stressing the roles of Canada and Mexico in hosting the event. As Gulati told ESPN, “The partnership between the three countries is an extremely important part of our story, especially given what is going on in many parts of the world.”
In addition to the politics of President Trump, soccer politics and a desire for a measure of revenge against the US may also move countries to vote against the joint bid. Last week, Sepp Blatter took to Twitter to endorse the Morocco bid.
World Cup 2026: Co-Hosting rejected by FIFA after 2002 (also applied in 2010 and 2018). And now: Morocco would be the logical host! And it is time for Africa again! #Fifa #CAF #@FIFAWorldCup— Joseph S Blatter (@SeppBlatter) February 22, 2018
While it is obvious why the disgraced former FIFA President would make this kind of statement, his sentiment could also be shared by those who benefited from the days when widespread corruption was more common in the organization. Ironically, while it seems like the 2022 World Cup bid was lost thanks to corruption, the 2026 bid may be lost in part due to efforts to eliminate it.
There is still time between now and June 13 when the 2026 World Cup host will be awarded for the United Bid representatives to make their case to voters that the US, Mexico, and Canada should host the tournament. However, news continues to come out that the bid will have more competition than perhaps many expect. It would be unwise to disregard the validity of the Morocco bid with the USSF is in a desperate position to host the tournament. As new federation President Carlos Cordeiro noted, hosting the tournament would bring millions of dollars of revenue to the federation and would enable the country to reach its goals as a soccer nation. On the field, the federation has suffered setbacks for nearly the past two years while it has been relatively successful in growing financially. A fiasco off the field would be a failure that USSF can ill afford and would foredoom Cordeiro’s term before it really began.