US, Mex­ico, Canada to host 2026 WC

The Phnom Penh Post - - SPORT - Guy Jackson

THE United States, Mex­ico and Canada will host the 2026 World Cup af­ter a clear vic­tory over un­der­dogs Morocco in a vote by FIFA mem­ber na­tions on Wed­nes­day.

The joint North Amer­i­can bid re­ceived 134 of the 203 votes, while Morocco polled 65 in the bal­lot at a FIFA Congress held in Moscow on the eve of the 2018 World Cup.

It means global foot­ball’s show­piece event will re­turn to the North Amer­i­can con­ti­nent for the first time since 1994 when the United States hosted the tour­na­ment.

Bid leader Car­los Cordeiro said his team was “hum­bled by the trust our col­leagues in the FIFA fam­ily have put in our bid”.

He said the tour­na­ment had an op­por­tu­nity to put foot­ball “on a new and sus­tain­able path for gen­er­a­tions to come.”

It will be the first World Cup to be ex­panded to 48 teams, pos­ing an enor­mous lo­gis­ti­cal challenge for the hosts, one of the is­sues that is thought to have un­der­mined the Moroc­can bid.

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump tweeted: “The U.S., to­gether with Mex­ico and Canada, just got the World Cup. Con­grat­u­la­tions - a great deal of hard work!”

The North Amer­i­can bid had been deeply con­cerned by Trump’s threat dur­ing the bid­ding process that na­tions that did not sup­port it should not expect US sup­port on other is­sues.

Bid lead­ers were wor­ried that the FIFA vote could essen- tially be­come a ref­er­en­dum on Trump. That prompted Cordeiro to plead ahead of the bal­lot to make their de­ci­sion on the mer­its of the bid, “not geopol­i­tics”.

FIFA Pres­i­dent Gianni In­fantino was be­lieved to have strongly backed North Amer­ica be­hind the scenes be­cause the trio of coun­tries in­volved sup­ported him in 2016 when he took over af­ter the cor­rup­tion-tainted reign of Sepp Blat­ter.

Del­e­gates had been faced with a clear choice in the 2026 vote.

The joint North Amer­i­can bid boasted mod­ern, es­tab­lished sta­di­ums and well-de­vel­oped trans­port links un­der­pinned by Mex­i­can foot­ball fer­vour.

Morocco, on the other hand, promised a “Euro­pean” World Cup in Africa, play­ing on its prox­im­ity to Europe and an ap­peal to take the tour­na­ment back to the African con­ti­nent for just the sec­ond time.

But com­pared to North Amer­ica, Morocco’s bid ex­isted largely on pa­per – many sta­di­ums and roads would have had to have been built and crit­ics ques­tioned how it would have coped with an ex­panded tour­na­ment.

FIFA in­spec­tors clas­si­fied the north African na­tion’s sta­di­ums, ac­com­mo­da­tion and trans­port as “high risk”, award­ing it just 2.7 out of five in an eval­u­a­tion re­port, with con­cerns raised over sev­eral crit­i­cal as­pects.

They warned “the amount of new in­fra­struc­ture re­quired for the Morocco 2026 bid to be­come re­al­ity can­not be over­stated”.

The re­port made the US-Canada-Mex­ico bid the clear favour- ite af­ter rat­ing it four out of five, and Morocco was not able to bridge the gap.

The 1994 World Cup in the United States set an at­ten­dance record that still stands, with nearly 3.6 mil­lion spec­ta­tors for only 52 matches.

That sug­gests that North Amer­i­can bid lead­ers’ prom­ises to de­liver a record $11 bil­lion profit for the 2026 tour­na­ment are fea­si­ble.

The de­ci­sion will be a shot in the arm for foot­ball in the US, af­ter the na­tional team failed to qual­ify for 2018 in a huge set­back for the game there.

It will also be cel­e­brated in foot­ball-crazy Mex­ico, which hosted the World Cup in 1970 and 1986 – the tour­na­ment re­mem­bered for Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God”.

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