Morocco competes to host FIFA World Cup 2026
Morocco stands alone against a coalition of North American countries in 2026 FIFA World Cup bid.
Morocco presented its bid book to FIFA on Friday and is the only rival in a joint bid from the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
However, depending on an upcoming evaluation, there is the risk that Morocco is disqualified before the vote in June.
Here is how it works, and how Morocco plans to compete with its North American competitors.
For the first time, every football nation will be allowed to vote, and every vote will be made public.
- June: Up to 207 of the 211 member federations will vote on June 13 in Moscow, with the four bidding members excluded.
- In aiming for transparency, FIFA’s pledge to publish the choice of each member could affect the voting, as some officials could be exposed to potential intimidation.
- Previously, FIFA’s ruling executive had chosen the World Cup sites from 1986-2022.
- The 2026 World Cup will also be the first time in the World Cup in which 48 countries will play.
- Africa: Sepp Blatter was president when FIFA last voted on men’s World Cup hosts. While championing Morocco, Blatter questions whether it can count on all 53 votes from Africa.
- “Africa is not always united,” Blatter said. But he believes the Americans are “afraid … and give the impression that they are not any longer very sure that they will win”.
- Saudi Arabia suggested it may not vote for Morocco.
Africa has hosted the football world’s biggest showpiece only once – in 2010, when South Africa held the event.
- CAF: The president of the Confederation of African Football Ahmad Ahmad has given Morocco his full backing.
- “This is our hope and our dream because it is unfair that a great continent like Africa has only been allowed to organise one World Cup in a century,” said the president of the Confederation of African Football.
- “I think it is legitimate for us to want one of our countries to make this commitment, and I myself as a president am committed to join in this bid.”
- Change: While the US hosted the World Cup in 1994, Morocco has failed to secure a bid four times.
- “We are competing against stronger economies, but the voting system has changed, a lot of other things have changed,” Toufik Senhaji, Moroccan football journalist, told Al Jazeera.
- “Morocco itself has changed during the last few years in terms of infrastructure. We have seen more development in Morocco,” he said.
Before the vote in June, a five-member task force will assess each bidding country, and could potentially disqualify it.
- A five-member task force, dominated by European officials, will make inspection visits, then grade and score the bids.
- Score: The task force will assign a score from 0 to 5, where 0 is “no requirements met/very weak” and 5 is “requirements exceeded/excellent”.
- 70 percent of the panel’s score goes for infrastructure, while 30 percent is based on projected costs and revenues.
- Bids must score at least 2 for the individual aspects of stadiums, teams and referee facilities, plus accommodation and transport links.
- “The scores have a bearing on whether or not a bid qualifies for the next stage of the bidding process, with bids shortlisted by the FIFA Council,” according to FIFA.
- Mimimum: Failure to score 2 (“minimum requirements met/sufficient”) from the task force means a bid “has been evaluated as ‘high risk’ and represents a material failure”, a FIFA bid regulations document states, whereupon “FIFA shall terminate this Bidding Registration.”
- FIFA’s Council must approve the verdict of the task force before the Congress votes.
- Stadiums: The largest venue, in Casablanca, has a capacity of 67,000, whereas FIFA will want a venue with at least 80,000 seats for the opening game and final.
- Only five other stadiums have a capacity in excess of 40,000.
- Timezone: The chief commercial officer at FIFA, Philippe Le Floc’h, highlighted how Morocco is in “the perfect time zone for Europe and Asia” television audiences.
- “There are other ways to generate revenues,” he said, “and the time zone in Morocco could help us.”
- African Nations: However, Morocco is building a good track record by hosting the continent’s second-biggest tournament – the African Nations Championship 2018.
- It has also staged the bigger Africa Cup of Nations and the Francophone games, which featured 1,700 athletes.
- Russia’s World Cup 2018 will be the Moroccan team’s first World Cup for 20 years.
The United States-led bid, which includes Canada and Mexico as minority partners, hopes to be awarded the hosting rights to one of the biggest events in sports without facing a challenge.
- America’s stadiums: The US would host 60 games in venues requiring only minor construction work, including three stadiums with more than 87,000 seats.
- Canada and Mexico, which has the 87,523-capacity Azteca Stadium, will settle for 10 matches each up to the round of 16.
- TV revenues: FIFA, which is trying to return to profitability, would earn $300 million more from the North American broadcasters if the 2026 World Cup is played in the region.
- “It would have some commercial attraction,” Le Floc’h said. “It has got infrastructure. They have got massive stadiums because they are used for American Football. So on the pure hospitality point, potentially, we might have more revenues.”
- Chicago: FIFA has faced criticism from the home city of the US Soccer Federation. Chicago refused to sign up to the bid because it believed the tax waivers and legal provisions required pose a risk to the city and shareholders.
- Vancouver, which hosted the 2015 Women’s World Cup final, said its bid was rejected because it refused to comply with FIFA’s requirements that include putting agreements under Swiss law.
Check out our new podcast from Al Jazeera’s podcast studio Jetty