In Moscow on June 13 – on the eve of the opening match of the FIFA World Cup in Russia – the Congress of the International Federation of Football Associations (FIFA) will take place. The host of the World Cup 2026 will be chosen on it – they will choose between Morocco and the joint application of the United States, Canada and Mexico. Ironically, the North African country has a chance to outpace the world’s largest economies, FIFA officials say. The fact is that one of the key factors can be resentment, especially of some African countries, against US President Donald Trump.
There will be 206 FIFA members participating in the vote, and 104 votes are required to win. Decisions are made by the football federations, but politicians may want to influence the situation. “The application selection process is organized in such a way as to evaluate them according to objective criteria and no longer make secret and subjective decisions, as has been done in the past,” says a FIFA spokesman.
The Trump Effect
All countries in North America were expected to unanimously support the application of the United States, Canada and Mexico. But in April, the Minister of Sports of the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia, Edmund Estefan, said that his country would “200%” support Morocco’s bid. Although Saint Lucia Football Association President Lyndon Cooper denied this when asked by the FT: “No decision has been made yet. We will support one [из заявок]based on the interests of our country, our people and our sport. “
This confusion suggests that the victory of the North American bid – the clear favorite thanks to its first-class infrastructure and potentially record-breaking profits – is no longer as guaranteed as it seemed a few months ago, due to what some officials call the “Trump Effect.” According to an adviser to one of the FIFA leaders, many developing countries are reluctant to give the victory to the United States after Trump called African states “a dirty hole.” This emphasizes that politics will continue to play a role in decision making.
Uncertainty surrounding the vote is also caused by the fact that, according to some people close to the leadership of FIFA, countries will support the North American application in order to appease American investigators who continue their anti-corruption investigation. But others are confident that some FIFA members, on the contrary, will try to punish the United States for this investigation. As one of the FIFA executives notes, the outcome of the vote will affect the fate of the organization: “If it comes down only to politics, and not to assessing what is good for the organization – the World Cup provides 90% of FIFA’s income – it will be necessary to think about why there is selection of applications “.
Such different applications
When the United States, Canada, and Mexico filed a joint bid called United 2026 in April 2017, it looked like it would have no competition. According to FIFA rules, the World Cup must take place in turns on different continents. This excluded Europe and Asia as the next two championships will be held in Russia and Qatar. Morocco, which has already unsuccessfully tried to host the tournament four times, submitted its application just hours before the deadline last August.
Not many expected Morocco to compete with the United States, Canada and Mexico, which are promising $ 14 billion in TV revenues, sponsorships and ticket sales. According to the North American bid, 23 cities will host the championship (17 in the US, three in Canada, three in Mexico), but most matches and the final will be in the United States. All the stadiums have already been built, and the organizers say they are ready to host the tournament even tomorrow. It is also worth noting that the 2026 World Cup will feature 48 teams for the first time, not 32. According to US Football Federation President Carlos Cardeiro, the North American World Cup could attract sponsors who would otherwise not want to contact FIFA because of corruption scandal: “Not only Coca-Cola, but some other North American Fortune 500 companies could become FIFA partners for many, many years.”
Morocco, by contrast, is proposing to spend $ 3 billion to build nine new stadiums, including a 93,000 seat in Casablanca for $ 400 million. A government-backed plan assumes total infrastructure costs of $ 15.8 billion. This amount is already included in the country’s modernization program – for example, the cost of building two high-speed railways. According to Morocco’s forecasts, the revenues from the World Cup will amount to $ 5 billion, which is almost three times less than promised by the United States, Canada and Mexico. But the country notes its other advantages. Its time zone is more convenient for TV broadcasts in Europe and Asia, fans from these regions will find it more convenient to get to a country where, moreover (a stone in the US garden) “the population has very few weapons.”
Hisham el-Amrani, the head of the Moroccan bid, argues that his country’s eventual victory will be a “historic choice” that will prove the ability of developing countries to host global events, especially when many states and cities are reluctant to do so due to rising organizational costs. “It’s not just the size or the level of economic development of a country that matters,” El-Amrani says. – Role [чемпионата мира] much more”.
Senior football officials anticipate United’s 2026 bid will receive strong support in North America and South America, which account for 45 votes. But they note that Morocco can count on the support of African countries, which have 54 votes, and some states in Asia and even Europe that have close ties with it, such as France.
Trump even expressed outrage about Morocco’s chances. “It will be a shame if the countries that we always support oppose the US application. Why should we support these countries if they do not support us (including the UN)? ” – he wrote on Twitter in April.
Later, speaking at a joint press conference with Nigerian President Mohammadu Bukhari, Trump tried to link support for the US bid with future trade agreements. “I hope all countries in Africa and around the world will support our bid for the 2026 World Cup with Canada and Mexico,” he said. “We will be watching very closely and will appreciate any help they can give us.”
FIFA declined to answer the question whether Trump had violated the rules prohibiting politicians from interfering in the selection process of the World Cup host.
An Asian football functionary notes that Muslim countries are concerned about Washington’s desire to limit the number of migrants from such countries. The same sentiment is shared in Europe, says a former football official: “Many are unhappy with the US because of Trump.”
Russia has promised to support Morocco’s bid. According to one European football official, Russia is likely to lobby countries in its “sphere of influence.” “I find it very difficult to believe that North America’s bid will win in Moscow,” he says. “The Russians won’t be happy about that.”
However, concerns remain that Morocco’s bid will be excluded from the vote altogether. In March, FIFA updated the requirements for host cities to have a population of at least 250,000. The city of Ouarzazate, where they plan to build one of the stadiums, does not fit this criterion. In addition, FIFA experts will evaluate applications against a number of criteria, and in the event of a strong non-compliance with key criteria, applications can also be excluded. The results are expected to be announced in the coming days.
People close to the FIFA leadership say they will be very surprised if Morocco’s application is not allowed to vote. But they add: “If the report clearly reveals that one proposal is much better in terms of money and performance, but the other still wins, then what is the point of reform?”
Translated by Alexey Nevelsky