The 2026 World Cup will be held in the United States, Canada and Mexico after they beat Morocco by a margin of 69 votes to host the tournament which will be expanded to 48 teams for the first time.
The Moroccan bid used its final address to Fifa congress to point out the country has a ban on weapons and would not hike up ticket prices to increase profit, a thinly veiled swipe at its rivals. But it was not enough to sway the room as it lost the vote, with the United 2026 bid receiving 134 votes to its 65.
The United States-led bid was judged by a Fifa taskforce to be vastly superior to its north African rivals on technical grounds, with a total of 23 stadiums, already built or under construction, at its disposal. Morocco, while enticing some federations with its commitment to fan engagement in a footballing nation, would have had to build or renovate all of the 14 stadiums in its bid book.
That difference – alongside the promise of £4bn in extra profit for the federations – was enough to convince some undecided voters to side with the United 2026 campaign, which opened its final 15-minute pitch by handing the stage to Alphonso Davies, a 17-year-old Canadian born in a Liberian refugee camp in Ghana. “In Canada, they’ve welcomed me and I know they’ll welcome you,” he said.
Of 211 federations, 203 submitted a vote. That number accounted for the four bidding nations who were ineligible, plus three American-governed territories who abstained because of a perceived conflict of interest plus Ghana, who did not attend congress after corruption allegations. The way the federations voted was made public for the first time, perhaps the most surprising revelation being Russia voting for the United 2026 bid despite political tensions between the nations.
The Fifa heirarchy, including the president, Gianni Infantino, preferred the North American bid which has promised to generate around an $11bn (£8.24bn) profit for Fifa compared to the projected $5.7bn (£4.48bn) a Morocco World Cup would raise. The Moroccans had been keen to emphasise its more fan-friendly pricing in contrast with the United 2026 bid which stated an average ticket price of $431 (£322), a significant increase on the Brazil and Russia World Cups.
It was the first World Cup vote since 2010, when the FA suffered humiliation after Russia won the right to host the 2018 tournament. Allegations of corruption immediately followed that vote with Qatar securing the 2022 event. The prospect of a more controversy-free World Cup also swayed Fifa in favour of the United 2026 bid.
Infantino took the opportunity to claim the Fifa landscape has drastically changed since he succeeded Sepp Blatter. “It was clinically dead when I took over two years ago,” he said. “Now it is alive. There are no longer additional costs in the balance sheet.”
Proceedings at congress, held at Moscow’s Expocentre on the outskirts of the city centre, came to an unexpected halt halfway through as Infantino announced the arrival of Vladimir Putin. Most of the hall rose to their feet to greet the arrival of the Russian president but the FA delegation, led by the chief executive, Martin Glenn, remained seated. Putin offered little alternative to David Gill, the English Fifa council member, but to shake his hand as he made his way along the line of those on the stage.
Eight years ago when Russia was awarded the 2018 World Cup in Zurich, Putin spoke mainly in English as he thanked the audience “from the bottom of my heart”. He struck a different, more serious tone this time round although he was full of praise for Infantino, calling him a “good front man and true fighter”. Infantino responded in kind, thanking Putin “on behalf of the entire world of football … from the bottom of our heart a big thank you for your engagement, for your passion, for really making us feel part of the same team”.
Putin closed his speech by saying in English: “Welcome to Russia.”