World Cup 2026: Mexico, USA and Canada to host tournament.

The "United" bid came out on top over Morocco in a tightly-contested race. Here's how it came together.


Reuters/SERGEI KARPUKHIN

The first 48 team World Cup will take place in the USA, Mexico, and Canada.

At the FIFA Congress in Moscow, it was announced that their joint bid, dubbed “United” won by a margin of 69 votes. It was a straight race between them and Morocco, whose bid was thought to have run them close until the final voting process. 

The voting process marked a change in direction after the controversy that has marred recent World Cup bids.

How did it come down to Morocco and the "United" bid?

FIFA decided in March 2017 that Europe (UEFA) and Asia (AFC) would be excluded from the bidding process for this World Cup after the recency of Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022. This left it between the Americas, Oceania, and Africa. 

CONMEBOL (South America) decided to bid for the 2030 tournament with a joint effort from Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay and mark the centenary of the tournament back where it began.

There are several bureaucratic requirements a country or bid must ensure they adhere to in order to host the World Cup, including having stadia of requisite capacities (80,000 for a final etc).

In the end, it was decided that two confederations would contest the bidding process, CAF putting forward Morocco and CONCAFAF opting for the North American mainland of Mexico, United States and Canada. FIFA temporarily banned a joint-bid between bordering nations after issues with the Japan and South Korea World Cup of 2002, but under Gianni Infantino relaxed the rules with regards to the 2026 and 2030 tournaments.

How was it decided?

203 of FIFA's 211 federations took part in the vote. 

Ghana did not attend after corruption allegations have shaken their football association. The four nations involved in the bidding process - Morocco, Canada, USA and Mexico - were not eligible to vote. The others that did not take part were Guam, Kosovo, Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Slovenia, Spain, and Cuba abstained. 

Reuters/Edgard Garrido

In an effort to be more accountable and transparent, it was revealed who voted for whom. Unexpectedly, despite increasing tensions between the two nations, Russia voted for the USA's bid. England voted for their bid, too. Most African federations supported the Morocco bid.

The full list of votes can be found on the FIFA website.

It appears that the "United" bid won out largely due to the more financially lucrative deal that it could offer over Morocco, with an estimated £8.1bn profit as opposed to the approximate £4.5bn profit projected by the North African country. 

Lobbying went right through until the closing days with a number of meetings taking place in Moscow. 

How will the tournament take shape?

Perhaps it's fitting that the biggest World Cup to date will take place across the biggest land mass conceivable. Like the Europe-wide Euro 2020, there's a danger that spread across so widely it will lose the "feel" of a traditional World Cup, whereby a whole country is transformed and consumed by the spirit of the game with visitors coming from all over the world. 

The expanded 48 teams tournament will see more countries from each confederation take part: 16 from Europe, and at least nine from Africa, eight from Asia, six from South and North & Central America and one from Oceania. An additional two places will be decided via intercontinental play-offs.

The eventual host cities have not been confirmed, but will eventually be whittled down to 16 from a preliminary list of 23, which includes Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York in the United States, Edmonton and Montreal in Canada, and Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara in Mexico. It's expected that the seven cities to miss out will be in America, with the final list comprising two in Canada, three in Mexico and 11 in the United States.

It's expected that the final will take place in New York, and has been confirmed that every knockout match from the group stage onwards will take place in the United States. The vast majority of matches will take place in the United States with a total of 60, and 10 each in Canada. 

The official bid has also suggested the idea of an opening day with three matches, one in each country.

The new 48 team format will see 16 groups of three teams, with the top two going through into the final 32 - which would then become a straight knockout tournament. 

Listen to the RealSport football writers discuss Spain’s World Cup group in Kremlins in the Basement: RealSport’s daily World Cup podcast.

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