WHAT A CON­TI­NENT

North Amer­ica wins 2026 bid

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Rob Harris and Gra­ham Dun­bar

MOSCOW» North Amer­ica will host the 2026 World Cup af­ter FIFA vot­ers over­whelm­ingly opted Wed­nes­day for the fi­nan­cial and lo­gis­ti­cal cer­tainty of a United States-led bid over a risky Moroc­can pro­posal for the first 48-team tour­na­ment.

The soc­cer show­piece will re­turn to the U.S. for the first time since 1994 af­ter gain­ing 134 votes, while Morocco got 65 at the FIFA Congress in Moscow, where the 2018 tour­na­ments starts on Thurs­day.

“Thank you for en­trust­ing us with this priv­i­lege,” U.S. Soc­cer Fed­er­a­tion Pres­i­dent Car­los Cordeiro told the congress. “The beau­ti­ful game tran­scends bor­ders and cultures.”

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump tweeted af­ter the vic­tory: “Con­grat­u­la­tions, — a great deal of hard work!”

While Trump has been feud­ing with Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau over tar­iffs and pol­icy af­ter the G-7 meet­ing and with Mex­i­can lead­ers about his pro­posed border wall, the heads of state are not heav­ily in­volved in this World Cup bid. Even if Trump wins re-elec­tion, his pres­i­dency would end be­fore the 2026 World Cup.

The vote by na­tional foot­ball fed­er­a­tions was pub­lic, in con­trast to se­crecy sur­round­ing the 2010 vote when FIFA’s elected board mem­bers picked Rus­sia to host in 2018 and Qatar in 2022, de­feat­ing the U.S.

The re­gional bid proved more ap­peal­ing this time and the North Amer­i­cans even col­lected 11 votes from Africa.

“The United bid was strong and if it was just the United States, I think Morocco would have beaten them,” said Cameroon fed­er­a­tion of­fi­cial Kevin Njomo, whose coun­try voted for Morocco. “Peo­ple have a soft spot for Mex­ico, es­pe­cially look­ing at Mex­ico as a lit­tle bit un­der-de­vel­oped and giv­ing them a chance. Canada is a good tourist des­ti­na­tion.

“But I think where it had the ad­van­tage was the World Cup would be more prof­itable in Amer­ica and it is a cap­i­tal­ist world.”

North Amer­ica op­ti­misti­cally promis­ing to de­liver $14 bil­lion in rev­enue helped, while the tour­na­ment won’t re­quire ma­jor con­struc­tion work re­quired on the 16 planned sta­di­ums, all of which al­ready ex­ist.

The U.S. pro­posed stag­ing 60 out of the 80 games in 2026, when 16 teams will be added to the tour­na­ment, leav­ing Canada and Mex­ico with ten fix­tures each. But FIFA Pres­i­dent Gianni In­fantino sug­gested the split of games could change.

“They have made a de­ci­sion among them­selves but ul­ti­mately it will be up to FIFA to de­cide,” In­fantino said.

Morocco ap­peared too haz­ardous as a po­ten­tial host when all 14 venues had to be built or ren­o­vated as part of a $16 bil­lion in­vest­ment in new in­fra­struc­ture.

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