World Cup 2026: Morocco Only Challenger to U.S.-Led Bid

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Only Morocco is standing in the way of a three-country bid among the United States, Mexico and Canada to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup. Friday was the deadline to notify FIFA of an intention to bid for the tournament.

“We’ve always been prepared for the fact that other countries could also decide to bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup,” said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said in a statement. “Competition is good, and overall it shows the value and importance of the World Cup. We’re excited to prepare a bid that will demonstrate to FIFA that the first World Cup to be held in the CONCACAF region since 1994 should be awarded to Canada, Mexico and the United States.”

The bidders have until March 16, 2018, to submit their full proposals. The FIFA Congress is expected to select one of the bids next June.

Morocco entered bids for the World Cups of 1994, 1998, 2006 and 2010, but the North African nation would have had to spend billions of dollars to accommodate the tournament, and that seems even less likely as the field is expanded to 48. With the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 tournament in Qatar, nations in Europe and Asia are barred from the bidding. That leaves only CONCACAF (North, Central America and the Caribbean), CONMEBOL (South Africa), Oceania and Africa as potential bidders. Mexico hosted the tournament in 1970 and 1986 (filling in when Colombia withdrew) and the U.S. in 1994. Canada last qualified for the World Cup in 1986.

The U.S., Mexico and Canada have formed what they are called the United Bid Committee and plan to next week release a list of cities interested in hosting matches. As was made clear at a news conference in New York in April, all three countries will host group stage games of the 48-team, 80-game tournament. But the U.S. will get 60 with Mexico and Canada each hosting 10. Gulati said that all games from the quarterfinals to the final would be played in the U.S.

At present, there seems to be little doubt that the three-country bid is the odds-on favorite to host the tournament. There are potential speed bumps, however. The recent claim in the Court of Arbitration for Sport by Miami FC and Kingston Stockade FC seeking the imposition of promotion and relegation in the United States has led, in some quarters, to linking the World Cup bid and a potential denial to a decision from Switzerland — which could be months to a year away.

In addition, the accusation by the United States Treasury Department against the Mexican star and national team captain Rafael Márquez and the sanctions placed on him could have an impact on the World Cup bid, according to lawyers quoted in an article in The New York Times on Friday.

The United Bid Committee’s board of directors and executive leadership team is composed of: Executive director John Kristick, managing director of technical operations Jim Brown, Canada bid director Peter Montopoli and Mexico bid director Yon De Luisa.

The committee also includes: Gulati (chairman), Steven Reed (Canada), Peter Montopoli (Canada), Decio De Maria (Mexico), Guillermo Cantu (Mexico), Carlos Cordeiro (U.S.), Donna Shalala (U.S.), Dan Flynn (U.S.), Don Garber (U.S.), Carlos Bocanegra (U.S.), Julie Foudy (U.S.), Ed Foster-Simeon (U.S.) and Victor Montagliani (CONCACAF). Robert Kraft has been appointed as honorary chairman of the board.