Why World Cup 2026 Should Go to Morocco, Not to North America

Why World Cup 2026 Should Go to Morocco, Not to North America

Official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait of Romain Saïss of Morocco.

SourceRyan Pierse/Getty

Why you should care

Canada, Mexico and the U.S. are offering 14 billion reasons for why United 2026 should win the bid.

The three men kicked around their priorities. For Mexican Football Association President Decio de Maria, it was “unity.” Peter Montopoli, general secretary of the Canadian FA, focused on “certainty.” Carlos Cordeiro, boss of U.S. soccer, meanwhile, was all about “opportunity.” These representatives of the United 2026 — with Mexico, Canada and the U.S. pulling together for the chance to host the World Cup — weren’t speaking in parables.

“Opportunity can be defined in multiple ways,” Cordeiro said, noting how the World Cup is the largest event worldwide every four years. The chance to host it in North America offers an “opportunity to maximize revenue and enhance financial resources, and not just for FIFA.”

Morocco is more than a romantic underdog; it’s a just choice — one that would reassure fans soccer is still the beautiful game.

The American was speaking a language FIFA members could understand: cold hard cash. For a 2026 World Cup on North American soil, he promised revenue of $14 billion. “What is in the best interest of soccer and each of the associations? Eleven billion dollars in net worth.… That has to sink in,” he said.

Morocco’s bid for hosting soccer’s flagship event, meanwhile, has focused on the sport’s heritage, huge national support, socioeconomic development, a message of tolerance and openness and just $5 billion in revenue. So does the North African country’s bid stand a chance against the big money of United 2026?

The head of the Moroccan bid, Hicham el-Amrani, says decision-makers must look to the future. If only rich countries with existing World Cup–friendly infrastructure win bids, then only those countries will have World Cup–worthy infrastructure. And if that happens? “Then what is the point of using the power of sports? That’s the point we are making, that it’s beyond football. It’s not only about who makes the most money,” el-Amrani says.

United’s staggering commercial credentials have prompted a philosophical debate about whether FIFA has shifted emphasis away from the original bidding ethos and toward giving hosting rights to the candidate that maximizes revenue. Logic dictates that United 2026 will easily prevail in this David vs. Goliath contest, blowing Morocco’s hopes away like grains of Saharan sand.

But logic isn’t everything. Morocco is more than just a romantic underdog; it’s a good choice — one that would reassure fans soccer is still the beautiful game. “We need to take a broader view of the money that might flow from a U.S. hosting decision,” says Simon Chadwick, professor of sports enterprise at the University of Salford in Manchester, England. Besides, he says, FIFA President Gianni Infantino has already promised to invest in international soccer development, and the 2026 bid should have had those plans in consideration. So? “Taking a longer-term, more strategic view, one therefore has to ask whether, ultimately, the U.S. bid is the more romantic choice,” Chadwick explains.

Is Infantino really interested in the development and democratization of the global game, or are those plans just window dressing for his own re-election bid in 2019? He’s also exploring the idea of having an investment fund inject $25 billion into two tournaments under the organization’s patronage, which probably spotlights his real motivations.

Four years ago, under the stewardship of Sepp Blatter, FIFA malignantly commodified and commercialized the World Cup hosting gig to an extreme. The result? The jarring social cost of 2014’s World Cup in Brazil — and FIFA and the World Cup being seen as miscreants.

While Blatter controlled a corruption-fueled FIFA, Infantino is a shrewd operator, navigating his way through the tangled web of football politics. The Swiss-Italian dismantled FIFA’s limited governance apparatus with surgical precision, concentrating power at the very top.

“It’s Infantino’s tried-and-tested method,” says Chadwick. “He’s playing the same game as he and Michel Platini played at UEFA [the European soccer federation]: Tell the rich and the powerful that you are going to make them even richer and more powerful, while telling smaller, less influential nations that you really care about them and are going to democratize football by sharing the wealth around.”

Sure, a World Cup in Morocco may be a financial blow for FIFA. But it would also be a powerful statement by the soccer world and the so-called shithole countries against the ever-increasing power of money over the game.

OZYOpinion

Interviews, op-eds, and analysis to help you make sense of the news of the day and the news of the future.