Morocco and the United States (with subsidiaries Canada and Mexico) have been cleared to take their David v Goliath duel for host rights to the 2026 World Cup all the way to the floor of FIFA Congress on June 13.
That possibility, evident since the North Africans threw their spanner into the world football federation’s works, became a certainty after sources close to the FIFA process indicated both had emerged successfully from the evaluation system – a process which the Moroccans feared had been weighted against them.
An initial summary from the evaluation task force was being released from FIFA headquarters two days after the panel – all five men being senior appointees of president Gianni Infantino – had held last-detail summit meetings with leaders of the two bids.
At one point the prospects of both being approved are understood to have hung in the balance but, in the end, United scored positively on most key staging factors and Morocco just about passing. United scored 4/5 overall and Morocco 2.7/5 despite proposals for stadia, accommodation and transport being rated ‘high risk’.
Morocco had complained long and loud about what its officials had perceived to have been a FIFA-centred bias towards their rival. Bid leaders claimed that the world federation changed the rules as the process went along. FIFA has always denied the allegation.
A stark contrast exists between the bids.
United 2026 has pointed to its commercial credentials by projecting that the central/north American bid would bring in a record $11bn profit to FIFA’s coffers while Morocco has promoted a contrasting concept of a need for the world game to be seen encouraging emerging countries.
FIFA rebuilt the bidding process after the scandals surrounding the awards by the old executive committee in 2010 to Russia for 2018 and Qatar for 2022. Under the new system congress should vote on bids analysed by the task force and approved by the 36-strong FIFA Council.
Initially the United States, controversially defeated by Qatar for 2022, was quick off the mark and sought to rush FIFA into a quick decision. Political demands in the CONCACAF region – to head off potential rival bids from Canada and Mexico – led to the construction of what would be a historic three-way cohosting proposal.
The Moroccans, who have pursued the World Cup in vain on four previous occasions, raised a rival bid in a process from which the rotation concept shut out next two host regions Europe (Russia this month) and Asia (Qatar in 2022).
Infantino is thought, privately, to be in favour of a World Cup in central/north America because of the massive financial windfall which would help straighten out FIFA’s scandal-battered finances and ‘encourage’ widespread support from the development-needy small FAs which comprise the bulk of its voting membership.
The Moroccans believe, however, that they can win significant voting support from not only their own African continent but also from within Asia and Europe.
It is thought that Europe’s Mediterranean nations would welcome a World Cup in North Africa and that Russia and its near-neighbours would back Morocco out of antagonism to the US over both the sports doping issue and the contentious policies of President Donald Trump.