Rabat – The 2026 boat lingers on while Morocco’ hopes of finally being home to the footballing world’s ultimate spectacle keep rising high as the fateful day of the final vote approaches.
Once ranked as an outsider in a race of titans, a bid that the North American could religiously ignore, the “African bid”, as it is now being referred to, has shaken the giants and established itself as the favorite.
But while many factors have allowed that unexpected rise, something much more unlikely, that no one saw coming, is now unsettling the core of what was left of the North American bid: the reluctance of cities to host the tournament.
“Nobody seems to want to host the 2026 World Cup,” ran the title of an article in an American outlet. “The 2026 World Cup is having trouble finding a home,” the article explained, adding that “Chicago and Minneapolis have taken themselves out of the running for the tournament.”
As the tournament’s fall out of favor in Chicago and Minneapolis came two days after a similar decision was made in Vancouver, one possible conclusion is that the increasing weariness of municipal authorities in one city is having a snowball effect on other authorities in other cities, thus creating an atmosphere where, under the pretext that FIFA’s demands are potentially harmful to the future of their cities and communities, more and more American and Canadian cities are calling off –or planning to do so—their status as hosts of the 2026 World Cup.
“FIFA did not provide a basic level of certainty on some major unknowns that put our city and taxpayers at risk,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who then went to talk about how communities in the host cities need to be protected against “future liability and unforeseen changes in commitments”, which is another way of rebuking the colossal investments that hosting FIFA’s major event requires.
But whereas the trouble at home keeps expanding, with more cities (there are a total of 20 on the organizing committee’s list) to follow suit and declare themselves unwilling or “not ready” to host the game’s ultimate event, United 2026, the committee in charge of leading the North American bid to victory (a victory that now seems distant and improbable), is selling the footballing community a totally different image: that of a bidder with no domestic issues and more than ready to host the tournament.
Yesterday, in the letter that accompanied its official candidacy (as March 16 was the last date FIFA set for contenders), United 2026 lauded the only point where the now lethargic North American bid feels some sense of superiority: infrastructures. “We are already ready,” the letter said, adding that while FIFA is looking for a bidder with “proven experience”, infrastructures, and resources, the “three nations offer the only bid that can deliver the certainty that’s needed.”
Something does not seem to be adding up here: while municipal authorities in many of the chosen ‘host cities’ point towards “uncertainties”, United 2026 is promising the only viable “certainty”, leading them to conclude their Friday letter to the FIFA community with a sense of religious assurance: “Canada, Mexico and the United States are ready to host.”
So: this obvious confusion, and perhaps lack of sufficient communication between city authorities and United 2026 officials, seems to be suggesting that the North American bid is not as strong as United 2026 officials would have us believe. Which makes even a lot of sense if you consider how obsessively fixated the organizing committee now is on infrastructures! But there may other reasons that have not yet surface yet. And whatever those reasons may be, in the unending sea of public endorsements that have recently greeted Morocco’s bid, the North American confusion and reluctance is surely another morale boost for the once frowned upon bidder.
“Moroccans can have their world cup,” some American fans have been quoted as saying. But after months of fierce competition between the two bids, this is no generous gesture. What it is, in essence, is desperation: the final recourse of fans trying to cool off the effects of a pending fiasco.