2026 World Cup: A Race to Secure Votes

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FIFA has admitted both bidders to 2026 World Cup race (FIFA)
(WFI) There will be a vote.

The Moroccan and the North American 2026 World Cup bids have passed FIFA’S evaluation test and will finally have each's name on the ballot at the body’s next congress in Moscow on June 13.

Surviving the inspection process is already a major victory for Morocco. For months, Moroccan officials had feared that the FIFA task force in charge of the inspections would disqualify them on technical aspects the North Africans labeled at times as “unfair”.

Now,it is time to ramp up lobbying. For the next 10 days the Moroccans and North Americans will engage in a frantic process of trying to secure votes from the 207 FIFA member associations voting at the FIFA Congress.

The question is whether FIFA’s recent evaluation of both bids may matter during the vote and how much weight voters will give to the technical evaluations.  Russia and Qatar were awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cup respectively despite a relatively weak assessment on FIFA’s Evaluation Report for those tournaments.

Morocco knows that despite having passed the latest cut, several aspects of its bid have been labeled by FIFA as “high risk”. Morocco scored 2.7 out of five in the assessment test which is considered only “sufficient” under FIFA guidelines. The joint North American bid scored much better, four out of five, which is considered “very good” with no "high risk" areas.

FIFA said of the 14 stadiums submitted by Morocco, nine were yet to be built and the remaining five "require significant renovation or upgrading". Only two of the 14 Moroccan venues were deemed to have "sufficient levels of accommodation" resulting in a second "high risk" conclusion.

Serious work also needs to be done on the training sites in Morocco, with over half still needing to be built, and the other half requiring renovation. A third area of analysis for Morocco- accommodation and transport combined - was also deemed "high risk," despite the country being a popular tourist destination.

However, FIFA's taskforce said it had obtained "enforceable government guarantees" which state the 12 host cities in Morocco will have a sufficient number of hotel rooms by 2026.

In light of all its shortcomings, Morocco’s bid has stressed its passion for soccer, its proximity to Europe, and the notion that those who oversee the sport should not make decisions based on money alone.

Meanwhile, the United 2026 bid featured 17, ready to go, stadiums which FIFA said allows the bid to “focus on a number of exciting initiatives related to sports science, fan engagement, multimedia interaction and other new forms of digitalization".

FIFA still has its reservations on the United 2026 bid’s organizing costs, where it scored just two out of five. The cost of taking the tournament to North America was marked at $2.16 billion, compared to just $1.87 billion for Morocco 2026.

The only part of the evaluation that either bid scored perfectly on was ticketing and hospitality where United 2026 was awarded five out of five. Morocco by contrast were given just 2.4 in the same category.

FIFA also knows that the North American bid would generate twice as much profit as its competitor. The United candidacy forecasts $14.3 billion in revenues, the North African bidders promised only $7.2 billion dollars.

Both bids were rated “medium” on human rights. Little was mentioned about Morocco, but the report identified two issues with the United bid: the possible national legislation against free entry to the United States and the absence of specific commitments to security and human rights by Canada and the United States.

Morocco can expect broad support from its African neighbors, and it already has received commitments of support from France, Belgium, Russia and others in UEFA. If it can take advantage of the grievances in the developing world against the United States and lingering suspicions about the U.S. Justice Department investigation into FIFA finances, it might be able to put together a winning ticket.

The North American effort is expected to receive strong support in Europe and the Americas while Saudi Arabia is enticing Asian voters to back the United bid.

By INSIDER Javier Monne

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