When 207 football federations vote for the host of the 2026 World Cup on June 13, Morocco will be on the ballot.
The North African nation’s dream of becoming the second African nation after South Africa to host the World Cup was kept alive after it scaled through an inspection process by FIFA, the world football governing body. Morocco scored of 2.7 out of 5 (the cutoff mark for the inspection process is two) but three key areas of the bid stadiums, accommodation and transport deemed “high risk.” In comparison, the United States, Mexico and Canada which make up the “United” bid scored four out of five with no high risk areas.
Morocco will likely need to fulfill plans to spend $16 billion on infrastructure to make up the gap as FIFA says “the amount of new infrastructure required for the Morocco 2026 bid to become reality cannot be overstated.” For its part, the United bid is betting on the quality of existing facilities particularly in the United states which will host a majority of World Cup matches if the bid is successful. As the 2026 World Cup will be the first to feature 48 teams – 16 teams more than it currently does, there’s a much higher scrutiny on the infrastructure capabilities of both bids.
But, with the selection of World Cup hosts subject to an election among FIFA member nations, politics will matter just as much as merit. Morocco is banking on a favorable time difference to appeal to European and African countries two of the largest voting blocs in FIFA. Both blocs have a 111 member nations more than the 104 votes required for a simple majority. But the United bid is potentially far more lucrative for FIFA: revenues are projected at up to $14.3 billion, almost double Morocco’s $7.2 billion forecast. The United bid can also count on the overbearing support of US president Donald Trump. Contrary to FIFA’s rules of conduct, Trump has threatened to withdraw US support from countries that “lobby against” the North American bid.
There is a twisted glimmer of hope for Morocco though: the last two votes for a World Cup host nation have been won by Russia and Qatar despite being deemed the riskier options by FIFA.