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Morocco to challenge North American joint bid to host 2026 World Cup | Football


Morocco has announced it will bid to host the 2026 World Cup, positioning itself as a last-minute challenger to the joint bid from the United States, Mexico and Canada.

The Moroccan football federation unveiled the bid on Friday with a brief two-sentence statement, confirming it had submitted a formal application to the relevant Fifa committees. The announcement came hours before Fifa’s deadline for countries to confirm their intention to bid, and denies the North American bid an unopposed victory at the eleventh hour.

The US-Mexico-Canada bid, first reported by the Guardian and formally announced at an April news conference in New York City, remains the overwhelming favorite to win hosting rights for the 2026 tournament. A successful joint bid would mark the first time the World Cup has been hosted by multiple countries since the 2002 tournament in South Korea and Japan.

Under the proposal, the US will host 60 games – including every match from the quarter-finals onwards – with Mexico and Canada splitting the remaining 20 fixtures equally. The United States previously hosted the World Cup in 1994, and that 24-team, 52-match tournament still holds the attendance record (with nearly 3.6 million spectators), despite a subsequent expansion of the format to 32 teams and 64 matches.

Mexico hosted the tournament in 1970 and 1986, while Canada hosted the women’s World Cup in 2015.

In May, Fifa announced a four-stage bidding process for the 2026 tournament with a final decision in May 2020. It later confirmed that the previous two World Cup hosts, Europe and Asia, will not be eligible to host the tournament.

That left North America’s Concacaf (which last hosted in 1994), Africa’s CAF (which last hosted in 2010), South America’s Conmebol (Brazil in 2014) and Oceania’s OFC (never).

The CAF offered its backing to the Moroccan bid last month, and Morocco could spring an upset if it can broker an adequate voting alliance. Europe has 55 members in the Congress, Africa 54, Asia 46, Concacaf 35, Oceania 11 and South America 10.

Fifa will now inspect the two finalists’ bids and report to the governing body’s member associations by March. The final vote will take place at the Fifa congress in June.

“We’ve always been prepared for the fact that other countries could also decide to bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup,” US Soccer president Sunil Gulati said in a statement on Friday. “Competition is good, and overall it shows the value and importance of the World Cup.

“Over the next eight months we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

The North American bid is bolstered by a fleet of gleaming new NFL stadiums built over the past two decades that are suitable for international matches, which puts it in step with the cost-conscious, infrastructure-ready leanings of the day.

But Morocco, which would become only the second African nation to host a World Cup after South Africa in 2010, has six soccer stadiums with 45,000 seats or more already in use, meaning it would not require as much new construction as previous host nations.

The North African country with long coastlines along the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea previously bid for the World Cup in 1994, 1998, 2006 and 2010.

Two years ago, the Daily Telegraph reported that Morocco had, in fact, won the vote to host the 2010 competition – even though Fifa awarded the tournament to South Africa. Morocco also came close in its campaign for the 1998 tournament, losing to France in the final round by a margin of 12 to seven.



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