Decision day: Fifa's 207 members to vote on host of 2026 World Cup

Sports | 13 Jun 2018

Fifa members will decide today whether the 2026 World Cup should be played in North America or return to Africa for just the second time.

The choice is clear - between a slick bid based on gleaming stadiums in the United States, Mexico and Canada or an ambitious attempt from Morocco based on as-yet largely unbuilt facilities.

On the eve of the World Cup in Russia, 207 Fifa member nations will cast their vote in a congress of world football's governing body.

Morocco's bid for 2026 was only cleared to advance to the runoff vote earlier this month, despite a Fifa evaluation report which classified the north African nation's stadia, accommodation and transport as "high risk."

The report left the US-Canada-Mexico bid as the clear front-runner after giving it a rating of four out of a possible five. Morocco received only a rating of 2.7.

A Fifa summary of the bid task force's findings warned that "the amount of new infrastructure required for the Morocco 2026 bid to become reality cannot be overstated."

Critics of the Morocco bid also point to the fact that the 2026 World Cup will be the first to be expanded to 48 teams, posing a severe test for the hosts.

But the North American bid has been dogged by concerns that the vote could become a referendum on the popularity of US President Donald Trump.

Bid leader Carlos Cordeiro has only one message to Fifa members - vote on us, not Trump. "We believe strongly that this decision will be made on its merits," Cordeiro said. "This is not geopolitics. We're talking about football and what is fundamentally, at the end of the day, the best interest of football and our footballing community ... We've had no backlash."

In 2010, the US lost out to Qatar for the 2022 tournament in a vote now tarnished by corruption allegations. That vote prompted Fifa to overhaul its bidding process. Whereas previously the 24 members of the Fifa executive committee used to determine World Cup races, now the hosts will be decided by a vote of 207 individual member nations.

Morocco has tried, and failed, four times before, in votes for the 1994, 1998, 2006 and 2010 tournaments. It lost out for the 2010 World Cup to South Africa, the only African nation to have hosted the global showpiece.

Bid leader Moulay Hafid Elalamy said the bid is based on the "fervor for football in the country and the entire African continent" . He promised that all the host cities will be less than an hour's flight apart.

The North American bid countered by promising to deliver a record US$11 billion (HK$86.32 billion) profit.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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