The United States, Canada and Mexico have been confirmed as the hosts of the 2026 World Cup, with FIFA’s member states voting for the United 26’ bid over its Moroccan rival at the 68th FIFA Congress in Moscow on Wednesday night.
The first vote conducted since outrage over the process behind awarding the World Cup to Russia and Qatar led to reform within FIFA, each FIFA member federation had the ability to cast a single vote towards their preferred host at the Congress.
The United States’, Canadian and Mexican bid, known as United 26′, became the first successful bid under this new process, winning the final vote 134 to 65.
The prohibitive favourites to host the tournament ever since the bid was announced, the United bid had scored highly in FIFA’s pre-vote metrics, with the proposed hosting stadiums of the bid already built and only need minor upgrades prior to the tournament.
In contrast, the Moroccan bid was largely speculative in nature, with much of the tournaments stadiums, amenities and infrastructure existing only on paper.
According to the United bid, the United States will host 60 of the 80 games, including all the games from the quarter-finals onward, at the tournament, with Mexico and Canada each hosting 10 matches. The 2026 World Cup has also been earmarked at the first tournament to take part under the new, 48-team format.
Whilst the final venues hadn’t been determined at the time of the vote, the United States has lodged 17 preliminary venues, with three stadiums from Canada and Mexico also put forward.
A Fairfax Media report early on Wednesday indicated that Australia was supporting the United bid in the vote, with both FFA chairman Steven Lowy and chief executive David Gallop both attending the Moscow Congress to lodge Australia’s vote for the three-headed monster.
According to the Fairfax Media report, the FFA’s support for the tri-nation United bid stemmed from a belief that it was the superior technical and logistical option, with the close social and political ties between Australia and the US adding an extra impetus to the decision.
A FIFA task force, in their report on the North African nation’s bid, had classified the proposed stadiums, accommodation and transport proposed by Morocco as “high risk” in their report, awarding the bid as a whole just 2.7 out of five in its final evaluation.
In contrast, the United bid scored four out of five in their pre-vote report, with their being little doubt of the capacity of the United States, Canada and Mexico to stage the extended tournament.
The difference between the projected profits of each bid was also stark, with Morocco projecting revenues of $7.2bn against projected revenues of $14.3bn by the United bid, with the FIFA task force declaring that the large revenue gap gave the United bid a “strong advantage” over its rival.
Human rights concerns had also been raised surrounding the Moroccan bid in recent days, with an Associated Press analysis of the documents submitted to FIFA revealing that the Moroccan bid had failed to cite laws surrounding homosexuality as a risk factor – flouting the stringent new bidding requirements put in place by FIFA following the 2018 and 2022 World Cup votes.
Homosexuality is criminalized in Morocco, with Article 489 of the Moroccan penal code declaring that sexual acts between people of the same sex are punishable by six months to three years in prison.
Whilst neither the Russian or Qatari administrations have a stellar history with LGBTQI rights, both bids were awarded under the previous bidding process, whereas in 2018 bidders were required to commission independent reports on human rights and provide risk assessments to aid in the evaluation of their bids.
Working against the United States heading into the vote was the so-called “Trump” factor, with the internationally unpopular US President seen as one of the biggest drags on their bid.
Trump had tweeted out veiled threats in the lead into the bid, declaring that any nations that didn’t support the United bid should not expect US Government support on other issues.
The U.S. has put together a STRONG bid w/ Canada & Mexico for the 2026 World Cup. It would be a shame if countries that we always support were to lobby against the U.S. bid. Why should we be supporting these countries when they don’t support us (including at the United Nations)?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 26, 2018
The PR that Trump had brought to the bid raised enough concerns that United States Soccer Federation President Carlos Cordeiro pleaded with FIFA members to vote on the “merits” of the bid, instead of using it as a referendum on Trump.
“We believe strongly that this decision will be made on its merits,” Cordeiro said.
“This is not geopolitics.
“We’re talking about football and what is fundamentally, at the end of the day, the best interest of football and our footballing community.”
Eyebrows had also raised in the hours leading into the bid when disgraced former FIFA President Sepp Blatter volunteered his opinion on the process, declaring Morocco as logical host of the 2026 tournament.
“Morocco would be the logical host and still is,” Blatter, said
“This is because at this certain time in FIFA we have taken a decision that we do not accept any longer a double or even a triple bid.
“After the results and experience we saw in 2002 when we had Korea and Japan hosting the World Cup. It was a nightmare.”
FIFA’s voters weren’t persuaded by the former FIFA President, however, voting to for the first time host the world’s biggest sporting event in three countries.
Canada has never hosted the World Cup, whilst the United States previously hosted the tournament in 1994 and Mexico twice, in 1970 and 1986.
Earlier in the Congress, FIFA’s member federations had voted down a Palestinian proposal to amend FIFA’s statutes with a stronger position against human rights abuses.
With FIFA recommending its members vote against the bid, saying it already fulfilled all commitments to human rights thanks to reforms passed in the previous three years, FIFA’s members voted 156 to 35 against the proposal.