The United States, Canada, and Mexico are taking on Morocco in bidding for the 2026 World Cup, in which the US would host 80% of the games. A lot is riding on the vote. For one thing, US Soccer President Carlos Codeiro has basically hitched the entire wagon of his presidency to bringing all but 20% of the World Cup back to America. When he was elected, Cordeiro noted that his priority in the first 100 days of his presidency would be getting the World Cup and the million dollars that it would bring back to the US. The basis being that it would jump start investment in the game for grassroots soccer and bring more attention to the sport. Goldman Sachs has never led anyone astray ever, so why shouldn’t we trust him?
Of course there are many factors that voters will weigh as they determine if the US, Canada, and Mexico have the winning bid or if Morocco somehow has persuaded them to choose the African nation to host the tournament. For one thing, the Joint Bid has the infrastructure essentially ready to go right now, today for the tournament. Morocco, on the other hand, would have to build stadiums, improve transportation, and construct tourism amenities to get ready to host. On one hand, Morocco can point to its low crime rate and safety from terrorist attacks. On the other, despite a recent Supreme Court ruling and Vice President Mike Pence’s advocacy for discrimination against the LGBTQ community, it cannot point to openness to the LGBTQ community that places in the US, Canada, and Mexico can.
Then there is the political side of things. Imagine that, a vote to determine where vast resources will be invested and huge amounts of income will be generated is political, but surely sports has nothing to do with politics and is just a diversion for the hoi polloi. Someone tell that to Carlos Cordeiro because the US Soccer President has gone and enlisted the help of Jared Kushner and his father-in-law, the President of the United States of America, Donald Trump. Of course Trump has experience in the sports world running the extremely successful and still thriving USFL, telling the NFL to make players stand for the national anthem (following the practice of the USSF) while the Kushner family has its own sports experience in failing to buy the Miami Marlins.
Their help and vast success in sports may be working. Andrew Das of the New York Times reports that support from President Trump has been helpful in making the case for the Joint Bid. The president even signed three letters stating that there will not be restrictions for people traveling to the US for the tournament.
President Trump's letters promise, among other explicit guarantees to FIFA, that "all eligible athletes, officials and fans from all countries around the world would be able to enter the United States without discrimination."— Andrew Das (@AndrewDasNYT) June 12, 2018
This comes as the United Nations issued a statement that the United States should stop separating families crossing the US/Mexico border as it runs “counter to human rights standards and principles.”
While the Joint Bid seems to be gaining support, Morocco is also getting commitments for its plan to host the tournament. Aside from the qualifications that Morocco has for hosting the World Cup, the country also has courted its former colonizer and significant trade partner France leading up to the vote. While Trump and Kushner support the Joint Bid, Andres Iniesta put his star power behind the Morocco bid and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation will support the proposal as well. It also makes sense that most of Africa’s 53 voting nations will get behind their continent in hosting the World Cup again. Then there’s the fact that the Moroccan Ministry of Justice didn’t bring down what was a very popular figure in many places in the world when Sepp Blatter was forced to resign amid the FIFA scandal brought on by a US Justice Department investigation into the organization.
For now, it is far from certain who will be hosting the 2026 World Cup. The New York Times also has a handy tracker for election junkies who can’t get enough of seeing which side is turning blue or red, because every election is won by a blue or red side. The tracker also illustrates the new wrinkle in the FIFA voting procedure that is different from the past: every FIFA member nation can vote. Rather than a secretive Executive Committee deciding who will host, for the first time the organization will follow a basic democratic principle with each of its members having the same power to decide who hosts the most watched event in the world. The vote will also be transparent as each member nation will have their selection made public.
Keep a close eye on that tracker though, folks, a THIRD option could take the day - one in which neither the Joint Bid, nor Morocco’s wins and both bids are excluded from being considered again and we would achieve Peak FIFA:
FIFA says that if the 2026 vote is won by the “neither” option, the current candidates will not be able to re-bid for the tournament when the rest of the world can. That seems kind of big.— Jonathan Tannenwald (@thegoalkeeper) June 10, 2018
Luckily, all of the politicking will be over soon. In less than 24 hours, we will find out if 80% of the World Cup will be hosted by the United States of America.