North America would be next host of 2026 World Cup after FIFA voters overwhelmingly opted for the financial and logistical certainty of a United States-led bid over a risky Moroccan proposal for the first 48-team tournament.
The football showpiece will return to the US for the first time since 1994 after gaining 134 votes, while Morocco got 65 at the FIFA Congress in Moscow on Wednesday.
All three host nations are expected to be given a free pass to the tournament’s group stages, though this has yet to be confirmed by FIFA.
Mexico are the only one of the three to have secured passage to this summer’s edition while Canada have never even scored a World Cup goal.
The vote by football federations was public, in contrast to secrecy surrounding the ballot by FIFA’s elected board members for the 2018 and 2022 hosts, Russia and Qatar, in 2010.
The US proposed staging 60 out of the 80 games in 2026, when 16 teams will be added to the finals, leaving Canada and Mexico with 10 fixtures each. The US is set to host all games from the quarter-finals onward.
‘Thank you for entrusting us with the privilege of hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2026,’ Carlos Cordiero, president of the US Soccer Federation told Congress.
‘Football today is the only winner.
‘We are very excited and humbled that the FIFA Member Associations have entrusted the CONCACAF region with the honour of hosting the 2026 World Cup in its new extended format,’ CONCACAF said in a statement.
‘Each of the United Bid’s 23 proposed stadiums are fully built, occupied, and operational, ensuring long-term use following the 2026 World Cup.’
Decio de Maria, President of Mexico Football Federation and Co-Chair of the United Bid, said: ‘We are grateful for the chance to bring to life FIFA’s new vision for the future of football.
‘We will use this platform to unite the world around football and help create a new and sustainable blueprint for the future of FIFA World Cups.’
An optimistic promise of delivering $14billion (£10.5bn) in revenue helped sway voters, along with the lack of major construction work required on the 16 planned stadiums, all of which already exist.
By contrast, Morocco appeared too hazardous as a potential host when all 14 venues had to be built or renovated as part of a $16billion (£12bn) investment in new infrastructure. The vote leaves Morocco reeling from a fifth failure in a World Cup hosting vote, with the continent’s sole tournament coming in 2010 in South Africa.
While Morocco’s combined tickets and hospitality revenue would be $1.07 billion, according to FIFA analysis, North America would generate $2 billion additional income.
Canada will host men’s World Cup matches for the first time, while Mexico gets its first taste of the event since staging the entire event in 1986.
The 87,000-capacity MetLife Stadium outside New York is proposed for the final. It’s just miles from where federal prosecutors spearheaded an ongoing investigation into FIFA corruption. More than 40 football officials and businesses indicted, convicted or pleaded guilty.
The bribery scandal put the governing body on the brink, FIFA President Gianni Infantino told the congress ahead of Wednesday’s vote.
‘FIFA was clinically dead as an organisation,’ Infantino said, reflecting on his election in 2016. ‘Two years later, FIFA is alive and well, full of joy and passion and with a vision for its future.’
The North American victory suggests football officials are ready to gather for a World Cup in a country whose government has demonstrated its willingness to jail corrupt sports leaders through undercover investigations.
The North America bid also had to overcome concerns about the impact of policies from the Trump administration, including attempts to implement a ban on travel by residents of six majority-Muslim countries.
The main intervention by President Donald Trump was a warning in a White House news conference, discussing the FIFA vote, that he would be ‘watching very closely.’ It was a veiled threat to withhold US support from countries opposing the bid.
FIFA now has the final say on which cities are selected to host games and whether all three countries are guaranteed a place at the tournament. Victor Montagliani, the Canadian who leads CONCACAF, wants them to take three of the six qualification slots reserved for the region.
There is also a chance to send a seventh team via an inter-continental playoff. North America will host the six-team playoff tournament in November 2025 to decide the last two places in the 48-team lineup.
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