- FIFA will meet this June to decide a host for the 2026 World Cup.
- Morocco and a joint North American bid are the only choices.
- The two bids couldn’t be more different.
The 2018 World Cup is just around the corner, which means the bidding process for 2026 is already in full swing. With just two bids to consider, FIFA isn’t seeing furious competition, but both bids are interesting, and each is very different from the other.
FIFA will meet in June 2018 to decide on a host for the 2026 World Cup.
The World Cup Selection Rules
The FIFA bidding process is complicated, so here’s a primer on some of the rules.
- Russia, which falls under UEFA’s authority, is hosting the 2018 World Cup, and Qatar (representing the AFC) hosts in 2022. As such, the World Cup cannot take place in Europe or Asia.
- Bids have to be submitted by a certain date (March 16th) and must demonstrate certain capacities, both in terms of stadiums capable of hosting the tournament and tourist infrastructure capable of supported the influx of fans from around the world
- Unofficially, FIFA would much prefer to avoid the appearance of corruption, having suffered considerably from the Qatar fiasco.
Since the deadline for bids has passed, we know which countries are submitting bids. Canada, the US, and Mexico have put together a North American Unified Bid, which would be the first multi-national World Cup, and Morocco has submitted its customary bid.
North American Unified Bid
A selection of cities across North America will host matches under this plan, which was submitted by CONCACAF. It appears that no one country wanted to take on the bid process itself, so a handful of cities are competing to be part of the Unified Bid. The list of cities was just whittled down to 23, as Vancouver and group of other cities dropped out of the running. The provincial government of Alberta is refusing to help Edmonton in its quest to be included, citing financial transparency concerns.
The Unified Bid has its pros and cons. On one hand, some of the most famous venues in the world would be included, and the World Cup would return to the Rose Bowl. All three countries involved have infrastructure that ranges from decent to excellent and large media markets. On the other hand, the cities included in the bid are hundreds and thousands of miles apart, and FIFA would have to deal with three federal governments at once, not to mention provincial, state, and municipal governments.
Venues allow the Unified Bid to really pull away from Morocco. It’s likely that no new venues would have to be constructed, as North America is nothing if not well-sorted for massive venues. It’s possible that the stadia that make up the SEC West could meet FIFA’s requirements on their own. As FIFA is attracting a lot of criticism for awarding the World Cup to Qatar, who are making their ambitious bid a reality through the magic of slave labour, awarding the World Cup to a host with no need to construct venues.
The North American bid is probably the favorite, as it accesses a huge market and returns the World Cup to North America for the first time since 1994. It is something of an unconventional bid, and if it fails it will almost certainly be because FIFA doesn’t want to accept a multinational bid or engage with multiple governments.
Odds North American Unified Bid is succesful: 2/3
Morocco is nothing if not persistent. The North African nation has submitted unsuccessful bids for the 1994, 1998, 2006 and 2010 World Cups, and is back for more. They’ve been building towards this for a while, winning the bid for the 2015 African Cup of Nations as a precursor, but asked to postpone that event on account of the Ebola virus. They then lost their hosting rights to Equatorial Guinea, but successfully hosted the 2018 African Nations Cup.
Morocco has grown considerably as a tourist destination since it last applied in 2003. The volume of tourists has grown from 3 million to 11 million, and with that Morocco has reshaped itself as something of a tourist haven.
Morocco also gives the World Cup something it deeply appreciates: favorable time zones. A unified North American bid would not only involve jumping around three separate time zone, but those times zones are as many as eight hours seperate from the European market. Since UEFA nations aren’t eligible to bid, Morocco offers an extremely convenient alternative for European fans and media. Morocco is just one challenging swim from the European market, while the Rose Bowl is on the other side of the planet.
As far as stadia go, Morocco would need to undertake a much more ambitious construction regime than their opponents. The Grand State de Casablanca is currently in the contemplative stage of development, as are seven other smaller stadia. Thus the majority of the seats Morocco needs to host the 2026 World Cup have not yet been built, a difficult situation considering the opposition.
Selecting Morocco is thus a convenient and simple choice for FIFA. It’s a conventional bid, very close to the European market, and with a government that will be easy for FIFA to interact with. It doesn’t help that eight new venues will have to be built to meet FIFA’s requirements, but that hasn’t stopped FIFA before.
Odds Morocco bid is successful: 7/3
When FIFA meets in June, they’ll have three options. They can award the 2026 World Cup to one of the above bidders, or chose not to, and open up the bidding once again. At that point, UEFA and AFC nations would be able to submit bids, bringing some of the largest nations on earth and the centre of the football world back into the mix.
This is an extreme option, and one that FIFA will only adopt if they consider the United Bid to be unworkable and Morocco to be unsuitable. It’s thus very unlikely, but still deserving of consideration.
Odds FIFA does not accept one of the two bids: 9/1