Commentary: North American 2026 World Cup bid holds off Moroccan challenge
More so than any other sport, soccer can be cruel.
A team could dominate possession, dominate shots and shots on goal and still come up a loser because of one mistake.
Sure, there are “deserved winners” that lose in football after out gaining their opponents and in baseball you can out hit your foe and lose, but it’s in soccer where teams can score against the run of play and come out on top.
Logically, Canada, the United States and Mexico’s joint bid to host the 2026 World Cup should easily have beaten Morocco’s bid and yet according to reports, the North Africans could have scored against the run of play and shocked the United bid.
It sounds crazy of course and I must admit when I heard Morocco was bidding against such a powerful choice I thought it was a joke. Before this bid, Morocco tried four times for the World Cup and failed and until making it this year, the last time they qualified for the World Cup was 1998 and they only have made it five times total.
But American soccer fans remember some how losing the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.
Then in 2015 American officials indicted 14 top FIFA officials for corruption. It seemed like a good thing at the time but according to reports in 2018, it bred resentment in other countries.
Then a year later the United States elected a president who ran on a platform of banning Muslims from the country and erecting a wall on the southern border.
Suddenly it seemed like Morocco’s long shot bid would actually win.
Thankfully good sense prevailed and on Wednesday morning FIFA’s Congress selected the United bid over Morocco’s.
The World Cup was returning to the United States for the first time since 1994, Mexico will be the first three-time host and Canada will host for the first time after their successful 2015 Women’s World Cup.
The 2026 World Cup went to the right side for a number of factors; first and foremost money.
It’s widely believed that the 2018 and 2022 World Cups went to Russia and Qatar in that infamous 2010 vote due to money as well, but not for everyone. It’s long been alleged that the oil money of Russia and Qatar helped them get the World Cup through bribes.
In 2010, a couple dozen high-ranking FIFA officials voted on who hosted, making it much easier to bribe. In 2018 the vote was changed to one by all 211 federations.
It’s a lot easier to bribe 24 individuals than 211 countries.
Plus the money that the 2026 World Cup will generate dwarfs what Morocco could offer. With 3,587,538 fans (68,991 per game) USA 1994 shattered the previous attendance records and even though the tournament was just 24 teams and the World Cups from 1998 onward have been 32, it still holds the record.
The 1994 World Cup was 52 games with the stadiums were filled to about 96 percent capacity and that was when soccer was a minor sport in the US.
The 2026 World Cup, expected to be the first with 48 teams, will have 80 games.
The United World Cup will take place in 16 cities, pared down from the current list of 23 potential markets. They forecast revenue of $14.3 billion, almost twice as much as Morocco said they could make.
It’s hard to imagine Morocco hosting the World Cup and it not crippling them financially. It’s one thing for rich Qatar or big Russia to build or renovate a bunch of new stadiums, but Morocco?
After much criticism and mass protests in even soccer mad Brazil, FIFA has been trying to get away from white elephant stadiums. Although Brazil is know for loving soccer, even they had to spend billions to build or renovate stadiums, many of which are unused now, just four years after their World Cup.
Morocco’s bid called for nine new stadiums and the renovation of five others.
Potential 2026 World Cup host cities
New York/New Jersey
San Francisco Bay Area
The United Bid on the other hand proposed using existing stadiums or future ones like the Los Angeles NFL stadium.
FIFA requires that World Cup stadiums seat at least 40,000 fans. The USA alone has 130 stadia that meet that requirement and Morocco has six.
They would have had spend $15 billion on infrastructure.
Plus soccer has grown mightily in the United States. Fans from the USA bought the most tickets for the 2014 World Cup outside of Brazil.
That’s surprising but once again fans from the United States bought up the most tickets besides the host for Russia 2018 and the USMNT didn’t even qualify.
Also the American World Cup television rights are the most expensive in the world. Imagine how popular the sport will be in eight years time.
Another reason the United Bid was able to win was its nature. After Trump won the election, an international tournament seemed like a crazy idea but instead the US Soccer added their North American neighbors to the bid in a brilliant move.
Now the bid, which became known as the United Bid, looks like a noble and unifying force. It’s still very American, as Canada and Mexico will only get 10 games a piece and the US will get 60 and all the games from the quarterfinals on, but adding the other two countries was a great PR move.
It’s a win for everyone involved. Canada doesn’t have enough stadiums to go it alone and an even worse World Cup history than Morocco (though the Canucks have actually played in the World Cup unlike Qatar).
Mexico did previously host the World Cup when it was 16 (1970) and 24 (1986) teams but unless they waited until after the USA hosted again, there is no way the would. How could they compete with the United States to host a World Cup?
Almost every game the Mexican National Team plays is in the United States. How could they convince people to play in Mexico instead of the USA when they themselves don’t even seem to want play in Mexico?
Finally, it looks like the United Bid committee’s hard work paid off. US Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro said he was at home for less than 10 days over the last three months.
They even set up a base in London to travel and lobby.
With most of the Americas on board and most of Africa going for Morocco, the United Bid committee targeted Asia and Europe as places to pick up votes and it paid off.
United won 33 of the 46 votes in the Asian confederation and 41 of 55 in Europe. They even flipped 11 of the 54 African votes for the cause.
Brazil, Italy, France, Qatar and North Korea voted the wrong way, but Russia reportedly changed its mind and went with the United Bid.
Although the United States isn’t in the World Cup for the first time since 1986 and Canada only made it once (in 1986 of course) it is a happy time for North American soccer fans.
Actually, the result is even a win for everyone. As one of the few sports that still have draws, soccer is a game where in some cases neither side loses and this is one of those cases.
North America gets the World Cup, the 208 other FIFA federations get a ton of money and Morocco avoids a costly bill and a bunch of white elephants.
Like how the successful United Bid came out of the disappointment of the lost 2022 USA Bid and Trump, maybe this latest loss for Morocco can lead to a smarter bid for them. People have already suggested future Portugal/Spain/Morocco or Morocco/Algeria/Tunisia bids.