To vote or not to vote… crucial 2026 bid evaluation report looks like going down to the wire

Voting booth

By Andrew Warshaw

May 22 – The all-important publication of the evaluation report into the dossiers of the two contenders bidding to stage the 2026 World Cup looks set to take place later than the May 29 date predicted by the Moroccan underdogs.

Last week, Morocco’s World Cup Bid committee tweeted that the inspection team would deliver its verdict on May 29 but it now appears the announcement may have been somewhat premature.

FIFA have been at pains not to confirm any date whilst the heavyweight US-Canada-Mexico campaign team are understood to have been given no indication that May 29 had been agreed.

Originally the Task Force were due to release their findings between May 15 and 30 but high-ranking sources close to the bid process have told Insideworldfootball that this could now be as late as June 2 because of additional analysis the technical team needs to process.

Whether this is good or bad news for Morocco in terms of passing the necessary criteria to be on the ballot paper in Moscow in June 13 is open to question but there is some surprise in the opposition camp that the north Africans unilaterally issued the date of May 29. One theory doing the rounds is that if there ends up being no May 29 publication, that would play into the narrative of Morocco crying foul.

Although the Task Force’s analysis will be studied by FIFA’s ruling Council on June 10, under the regulations whatever its technical experts recommend will have to be approved. It will then be up to FIFA’s 207 voting members to cast their votes – if one takes place at all.

That raises the obvious question of why the Council needs to meet at all if all it is doing is rubber-stamping the Task Force’s recommendations.

“Keep in mind that FIFA has never ever designed a process like this before,” explained one insider. “It does look on paper as if FIFA are purely sticking to protocol but that’s hardly surprising given past history. There is nothing untoward about it.”

Maybe not but FIFA president Gianni Infantino has been accused of trying to undermine Morocco’s campaign by instructing the Task Force to deliberately uncover some kind of incriminatory evidence that would exclude the Moroccans. Fingers were recently pointed towards certain Task Force members when FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura was reported to the FIFA ethics committee over an alleged undeclared family link with former Senegal international El Hadji Diouf, her compatriot and a Morocco 2026 ambassador.

The claim proved to be totally groundless but no action has been taken against whoever made the tenuous connection amid Moroccan complaints that the Task Force was neither independent nor impartial.

In the latest row, FIFA has turned a blind eye to a request from Morocco that four countries governed by the US – American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands – be refused permission to take part in the ballot, a controversy that is now in serious danger of disrupting proceedings at the Congress.

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1558652890labto1558652890ofdlr1558652890owedi1558652890sni@w1558652890ahsra1558652890w.wer1558652890dna1558652890