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The US, Canada and Mexico have won the right to jointly host the 2026 football World Cup, with a promise to provide greater profits than any previous tournament overcoming reluctance in some countries to hand the prize to US President Donald Trump.
The joint North American bid, dubbed ‘United 2026’, defeated Morocco in the race to hold one of the world’s biggest sporting events, following a vote on Wednesday by more than 200 member nations of Fifa, international football’s governing body.
During a public ballot held at Fifa’s annual congress meeting in Moscow, the day before the opening match of this year’s World Cup in Russia, members voted 134-65 in favour of the North American bid.
“Thank you for the incredible privilege,” said Carlos Cordeiro, president of US Soccer. “Football today is the only victor.”
The North American bid was considered a strong favourite after promising $11bn in profits to Fifa, far more than any previous World Cup. The pledge compared with just $5bn in profits offered by Morocco. The US, which last held the World Cup in 1994, will hold the majority of matches including the final.
In the run-up to the vote, Fifa officials and others close to the process said they were concerned that attitudes towards Mr Trump were having an effect on how nations intended to vote, particularly those in Africa who resented the president’s description of them as “shithole countries”. The president publicly lobbied for his continent, including making veiled threats that appeared to link trade deals to support for the US-led effort.
Many African countries voted for their Moroccan neighbour, but the North American bid was able to rely on strong support in its home continent and South America, securing enough backing in Europe and Asia to comfortably take it over the winning line.
The North American bid team strained to present a united front, despite fraught political relations between their countries. Mr Trump over the weekend lashed out at Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, over trade policy, while his desire to build a wall at the US-Mexico border has angered Mexican leaders.
“The North American bid can go a long way towards recasting the us-versus-them narrative that Trump has triggered, first with Mexico and lately with Trudeau,” said Arturo Sarukhán, who first floated the idea of a joint bid when he was Mexico’s ambassador to the US in 2010.
“Having the 2026 World Cup in three North American countries will be a balm on some of the wounds the US has triggered in the region.”
The outcome came as a relief to many senior Fifa officials. Earlier this month, an inspection task force released its long-awaited technical assessments on the two bids. It rated the North American bid highly, as all the infrastructure to hold the event, including stadiums in 23 cities from New York and Los Angeles to Mexico City and Toronto, are already in place.
The inspectors judged Morocco to be a far riskier proposition, as the country planned to build nine new stadiums and would have needed to renovate existing ones to host the event.
Past World Cup host decisions left Fifa engulfed in a bribery scandal.
Most of the 22 “executive committee” members who voted on the World Cup hosts in 2010 — handing the 2018 event to Russia and 2022 tournament to Qatar — have since been charged or accused by US authorities of criminal wrongdoing, or sanctioned by Fifa’s ethics committee.
Fifa has enacted reforms to clean up the organisation, including opening up the ballot to all of its more than 200 member nations.
Legal costs related to the bribery investigations had partly contributed to substantial losses at Fifa in recent years. The Zurich-based organisation expects income of $6.56bn over the next four years and about $100m profit over the period. The expected windfall from holding the World Cup in North America is expected to secure the financial future of the governing body into the next decade.