December 1 – If they weren’t before, they are now. The gloves are officially off in the race for the hosting of the 2026 World Cup. USA, Mexico and Canada submitted their 2026 World Cup bid, as did Morocco, before the November 30 deadline.
The 2026 World Cup will be the first to host the first 48-team competition and the first vote for World Cup host to go before the 211 member associations rather than being the decision of just 24 executive committee members as previously.
Clear favourite to win the hosting is the US-dominated North American bid. On the principle of rotation the CONCACAF region is well overdue a World Cup hosting – as former president Jeff Webb, currently awaiting sentencing in the US on corruption charges, frequently said.
But principles don’t carry much weight in FIFA, especially when it comes to geo-political advantage. The Morroco bid already has the support of Africa while it is not clear the North American bid will gather the support of all the CONCACAF members, especially those in the increasingly marginalised Caribbean who might feel more spiritually and geo-politically aligned with Africa.
The final vote for the hosting will be taken at FIFA’s Congress in Moscow the day before the opening match of the 2018 World Cup. A vote that will certainly take some of the gloss off the run up to 2018 event in Russia. Under Blatter, FIFA had moved the major votes away from the start of World Cups because of the circus that surrounds them and their ability to focus attention from the playing of football.
Pushing the vote back to 2019 would see a clash with current FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s bid for re-election (assuming a candidate comes forward). Why have one circus when you can have two, seems to be the new FIFA thinking on this one. Or perhaps the thinking is that 211 member association presidents are just not smart enough to realise what they would be voting for if two big votes were held at the same congress.
The next stage of the bidding process is the submission of bid books on 16 March 2018 next year. The final decision is made by FIFA on June 13.
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