MOSCOW • The World Cup is returning to the United States, and this time, Mexico and Canada are along for the ride.
A North American joint bid won the rights yesterday to host the 2026 edition of the tournament, defeating Morocco.
The member associations in Fifa, the sport's governing body, favoured the United Bid in a landslide vote, 134-65, with one abstention. Thus, 32 years after setting World Cup attendance records in hosting the 1994 competition, the US will join forces with its neighbours to organise the first 48-team edition. Mexico hosted the World Cup in 1970 and 1986. Canada is involved for the first time.
It will mark the first time three countries have shared the planet's most popular sporting event. Fifa will decide whether, as is customary, each country receives an automatic berth in the tournament.
The US will stage 60 of the 80 matches, including all from the quarter-finals onwards, while Mexico and Canada will get 10 apiece.
The bid victory will stack the US sports landscape with major competitions in possibly three consecutive years. Besides the 2026 World Cup, the US Soccer Federation is tentatively planning to bid for the 2027 Women's World Cup and Los Angeles is set to host the 2028 Olympic Games.
"It is a bit emotional for us today," US Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro said after the vote. "Football today is the only victor."
In making its case to voting members, the North American bid accentuated the quantity and quality of available stadiums, the experience in staging major events and the infrastructure necessary to transport and house tens of thousands of visiting fans. The bid also said it would make a profit of US$11 billion (S$14.7 billion) for Fifa.
To counter concerns about severe travel, the bid said teams would be placed in regional clusters. It also proposed not one traditional opening match but three, with one in each nation.
Morocco has made five unsuccessful bids to host the World Cup.
With the tournament expanding by 50 per cent, voters were apparently wary of the country handling such a large-scale competition.
Mr Gianni Infantino, who said yesterday he will stand for re-election as Fifa president next year, was believed to have strongly backed the North American bid behind the scenes, because the trio of countries involved backed him in 2016 when he took over after the corruption-tainted reign of Mr Sepp Blatter.
The US was defeated by Qatar in 2022 in a vote now tarnished by corruption allegations. It prompted an overhaul of the rules. While the 24 members of the Fifa Executive Committee used to determine World Cup races previously, the host is now decided by votes of individual Fifa member nations.
WASHINGTON POST, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE