The USA, Mexico and Canada have submitted a joint bid to host the 2026 World Cup, but will face competition from Morocco to stage the tournament.
The two bids were submitted before the Thursday, 30 November deadline, as the competition to host the first 48-team World Cup heats up.
The next stage of the process is the submission of candidacy dossiers on 16 March next year, before the final decision is made by FIFA on 13 June.
The 2026 tournament will be decided by all 211 national federations, rather than the smaller executive committee. FIFA revamped the decision making process in the fall-out from Sepp Blatter's departure.
Russia will host the 2018 World Cup at the end of the season, and Qatar are scheduled to host the controversial mid-season tournament in 2022.
Chicago, the home of the U.S. Soccer Federation, has dropped out of the North American bid for the 2026 World Cup.
Organizers were to announce their list of bidding cities Thursday. Chicago was the site of the 1994 World Cup opener but declined to be part of the U.S. bid for the 2022 World Cup, which lost to Qatar in a 2010 vote.
Matthew McGrath, a spokesman for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, says in a statement: ”FIFA could not provide a basic level of certainty on some major unknowns that put our city and taxpayers at risk. The uncertainty for taxpayers, coupled with FIFA’s inflexibility and unwillingness to negotiate, were clear indications that further pursuit of the bid wasn’t in Chicago’s best interests.”
FIFA insists that contracts with host cities contain a provision they be governed under Swiss law and give FIFA the ability to modify agreements at any time.
Vancouver, British Columbia, also dropped out. B.C. Tourism Minister Lisa Beare says provisions add ”unknown costs and unknown risks to the B.C. taxpayers.”
Morocco also is bidding. The FIFA Congress votes June 13 in Moscow.
FIFA has announced the schedule for the bid evaluation visits in the increasingly tense race to stage the 2026 World Cup.
As set out in the rules introduced after the controversies of the 2010 decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, respectively, the recommendations of the 'bid evaluation task force' will go a long way to deciding if the joint bid from Canada, Mexico and the United States will be joined on the ballot by Morocco's bid. The American-led United bid was the hot favourite, thanks to its near guarantee of commercial success, choice of world-class venues and the opportunity to grow the game in the world's richest market, but Morocco is gaining ground and could spring an upset, providing it can convince FIFA its bid is viable.
The five-strong task force - which includes the chairmen of FIFA's audit and governance committees, as well as former Croatia and AC Milan star Zvonimir Boban, now FIFA's deputy general secretary - will visit the United bid first.
They will start in Mexico City on April 9th, travel to Atlanta a day later, then head north to Toronto and finish in New York on April 12/13th. The Moroccan dates are Marrakech on April 16th, then to Agadir the following day, up the coast to Tangier on April 18, before finishing in Casablanca a day later.
The purpose of the visits is to check on proposed venues, meet the bidding committees and clarify technical details.
Checking venues will be much easier in Canada, Mexico and the US, as the proposed venues already exist. In fact, Mexico City's Estadio Azteca has already staged World Cup finals in 1970 and 1986.
Morocco's offer, on the other hand, will require more imagination, as the plan is to expand existing stadiums in Marrakech and Tangier and build new venues in Agadir and Casablanca. Marrakech would also get one of the five proposed 'modular' stadiums that can be taken down and used elsewhere after the tournament.
But if the United bid offers certainty in terms of venues, there are logistical concerns in hosting a tournament in three countries, as the task force should notice as they spend nearly seven hours on planes between the four cities.
The Moroccan bid, however, has more to offer than relative compactness. It will be keen to impress upon FIFA the passion of its football-mad population, its World Cup-inspired development plans and a friendly time zone for European fans.
FIFA issues second rebuke in a week to Morocco's 2026 World Cup bid and warns it does not want unsuitable "white elephant" stadiums built for the tournament @robharrishttps://t.co/2LqzD8Iqse pic.twitter.com/YfD1i59WEr
— AP Sports (@ap_Sports) April 4, 2018 But its best card is Donald Trump. The US president's rhetoric and actions have managed to upset a growing coalition of countries and anti-American sentiment could swing it for Morocco.
Earlier this week, the Moroccan bid was backed by Dominica and Saint Lucia, despite the Caribbean islands being from the same confederation as Canada, Mexico and the US, while on Thursday the French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet told the L'Equipe newspaper he would be voting for Morocco, too.
The geopolitics go both ways, of course, as US Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro demonstrated when he tweeted about his meeting with Saudi football officials on Tuesday.
The final choice, assuming the bids are approved by the task force and signed off by the FIFA Council, will be made by all of the member associations at the pre-World Cup Congress in Moscow on June 13th.
Chicago has withdrawn from the effort to bring the 2026 World Cup to North America, a spokesman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday.
Soldier Field was one of 32 potential venues on a list released last year by the joint bid committee that’s vying to bring the world’s biggest sporting event to the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
But Emanuel spokesman Matt McGrath said Chicago had pulled out of the joint bid and would not host any World Cup games, even if FIFA chooses to bring the tournament to North America in 8 years.
“FIFA could not provide a basic level of certainty on some major unknowns that put our city and taxpayers at risk,” the mayor’s office said in a statement Wednesday. “The uncertainty for taxpayers, coupled with FIFA’s inflexibility and unwillingness to negotiate, were clear indications that further pursuit of the bid wasn’t in Chicago’s best interests.”
A spokesman for U.S. Soccer, Neil Buethe, declined to comment on Chicago’s withdrawal from the bid, saying the final list of potential venues would be released Thursday.
The 2026 tournament will be the first 48-team World Cup and Chicago, with its central location, diversity and infrastructure, figured to be a good bet to get games in the expanded event.
But the American-Canadian-Mexican bid, once considered a shoo-in to win the rights to host the tournament, is in danger of losing out to Morocco when FIFA executives cast their votes later this year, ESPN reported recently.
Officials in Vancouver also said Wednesday that the Canadian city — which was another of the 32 finalists — would no longer be part of the joint bid.
Soldier Field hosted the opening game and four other matches during the 1994 World Cup, the only time that the U.S. has hosted the tournament.
But in January 2010, city officials pulled Chicago out of the U.S.’ ultimately unsuccessful bid for the World Cup in either 2018 or 2022. At that time, officials said then-Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration dropped out because the city declined to promise to spend an estimated $10 million likely required to host games.