North America to host 2026 World Cup after winning vote over Morocco – as it happened

In 2,920 days, give or take, the World Cup will kick off in the United States, Canada and Mexico. No artificial clouds necessary! If it seems a far way off, that’s because it is, but don’t let that dampen your excitement. Let the countdown begin.

The full breakdown of voting by nation

As promised, Fifa has released all the votes publicly after the conclusion of balloting. Transparency is the name of the game these days.

Voting results
Voting results
Voting results
Voting results

Donald Trump, who actively lobbied for the bid in his own inimitable way, has weighed in on the result. The US president could be midway through his third term when the tournament kicks off during America’s Sestercentennial.

Oscar De La Hoya embodied the American dream when he went from a poor Mexican-American teenager to Olympic gold medalist ... and ultimately one of his generation’s richest and most decorated world champions as a professional. He’s written an essay for Guardian US, in English and in Spanish, on why Americans should back Mexico at the World Cup.

The dizzying high of today’s outcome for American soccer fans will soon be tempered by a harsh comedown. Namely, when the World Cup kicks off tomorrow in Russia, the United States men’s national team will be watching it from their living rooms for the first time in more than three decades after a disastrous qualifying campaign.

That’s rendered many Americans emotional free agents for this year’s tournament, but here at Guardian US we’ve decided to throw our support behind Mexico.

El Tri

In the next few weeks, we’ll have a reporter at each of Mexico’s games, starting from their opener against the reigning champions Germany on Sunday. We’ll also liveblog every El Tri game – in English and Spanish – and provide news and analysis throughout the tournament.

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All three heads of the winning federations are predictably thrilled with today’s result. Their immediate reactions:

“Hosting the 2026 Fifa World Cup is a rare and important moment to demonstrate that we are all truly united through sport,” US Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro said in a release distributed immediately after the result was announced. “We are humbled by the trust our colleagues in the Fifa family have put in our bid; strengthened by the unity between our three countries and the Concacaf region; and excited by the opportunity we have to put football on a new and sustainable path for generations to come.”

“We are grateful for the chance to bring to life Fifa’s new vision for the future of football,” said Decio de María, president of the Mexico Football Federation. “Together – in partnership with our candidate host cities, the Member Associations, and Fifa – we will use this platform to unite the world around football and help create a new and sustainable blueprint for the future of Fifa World Cups.”

“Hosting a Fifa World Cup is an extraordinary honor and privilege,” said Steven Reed, president of Canada Soccer. “Canada, Mexico, and the United States are ready to welcome the world to North America and serve as stewards of the largest Fifa World Cup in history. Our vision is of a world of opportunity for our candidate host cities and for the global football community.”

USA 94, the first and only time the World Cup was staged in the United States, started and ended with a missed penalty. But everything that happened in between offered a compelling proof of concept that ultimately Fifa’s member nations were unable to resist today in Moscow.

The 1994 World Cup set an attendance record that still stands with nearly 3.6m spectators (for only 52 matches), which augurs a record-smashing profit of $11bn for the expanded 48-team, 80-match tournament in 2026. That was twice what Morocco could promise. Throw in the nod toward the fiscally responsible, infrastructure-ready leanings of the moment – the US is one of the few countries on the planet with enough world-class stadiums, airports, hotels and training facilities to host the World Cup tomorrow if it needed to – and it’s no surprise that Fifa’s member federations voted the way they did.

Interestingly, Fifa awarded the United States its first World Cup on the Fourth of July in 1988. The countries that it beat out? Brazil and ... Morocco.

The USA, Mexico and Canada will host the 2026 World Cup!

The United Bid received 134 votes, Morocco received 65 votes while one country voted for neither.

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The vote is happening!

Here’s the final tally on the voting body. A total of 210 members are present and eligible to vote but seven will abstain: the four countries directly involved (USA, Canada, Mexico and Morocco) and three US-governed territories (Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the US Virgin Islands).

The members have been prompted to vote electronically and they will have 15 seconds to cast their ballots.

Former Bolton Wanderers and Senegal midfielder Khalilou Fadiga is speaking now. He doesn’t exactly dodge the money issue in his impassioned remarks:

Football is love and Africa loves football. I’m here to ask for your vote. Why? ... Because Africa is the birthplace of humanity. Africa has given everything to the world. Now it’s up to you to understand that football is not just a question of money and finances, but it is deeply rooted in passion and enthusiasm. In Africa, we don’t have a lot of material wealth, but we do have that joy and we do have that passion and we do want to welcome you on our continent because this is the competition that we have been working in order to host. Africa has given everything to you and I do believe it is time to pay back to Africa.

The representatives for the United Bid have finished their presentation and now it’s Morocco’s turn to make their final pitch. It starts with a video presentation (with an American voice-over) keeping with the running theme of casting perceived weaknesses as strengths, promising a more compact experience relative to North America’s sprawling three-country plan. Notably, the narrator promises $5bn of profits for Fifa, which is less than half the $11bn guaranteed by the United Bid moments ago. Now a Moroccan government minister roams the stage with a hands-free microphone making the case in French.

Meanwhile, it appears as if the Spanish drama will be a net positive for the North American bid.

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Meanwhile, Spain is burning. Scenes!

If these final presentations aren’t grabbing you, here’s some light reading material to tide you over. The official bid books for Morocco and USA-Mexico-Canada, which spell out the proposals in painstaking detail.

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Infantino is going through the voting procedure in exhaustive detail. Meanwhile, a series of flowcharts flash on the monitors behind him. No one can plead ignorance after this.

Now each bid will make their final presentations. The United Bid, which won a drawing of lots, will go first.

First to speak is Alphonso Davies, a 17-year-old winger with the Vancouver Whitecaps of Major League Soccer and the Canadian national team, saying he looks forward to playing in a World Cup on home soil. Mexican Football Federation president Decio De Maria speaks next, followed by Brianna Pinto, a member of the US women’s under-20 national team.

Representatives for each bid will have a chance to make a final 15-minute presentation to the congress. Then there will be opportunities for advocates outside the bid teams to make supporting remarks.

Then the electronic balloting will begin.

As mentioned earlier: a detailed outline of the balloting procedure can be found on Fifa’s website, but here’s the short version: each of Fifa’s member federations one equally weighted vote on the first ballot for one of three options 1) the United Bid, 2) Morocco or 3) None of the Bids. Should either North America or Morocco receive a simple majority of all votes cast, it will be awarded rights to host the 2026 World Cup outright.

It's time to vote (almost)

We’ve moved to Item 13 on the agenda. The vote is here. Infantino is making his final remarks and the balloting should be under way shortly.

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There’s one question I’ve heard more frequently than any other since the USA, Mexico and Canada announced their joint bid last year. That is:

The answer: Yes, the host country automatically qualifies for the World Cup finals by tradition, but in the event of multiple host nations, the Fifa Council will make the final determination on the number of countries that receive automatic bids.

Of course, the World Cup has only been co-hosted once before in 2002, when both South Korea and Japan earned automatic invites.

So who's going to win?

By most objective metrics the United Bid is superior. Fifa’s task force, which inspected each bid across a range of infrastructural and commercial elements, gave it a score of 402.8 out of 500 (compared to 274.9 for Morocco). The North American bid also promises to generate a profit of £8.1bn for Fifa, nearly twice Morocco’s projected haul of £4.48bn.

But some close to the United Bid have expressed concern that Donald Trump’s intervention during the process in defiance of Fifa rules, say nothing of the administration’s incendiary politics, may work against their pitch, even as it’s since emerged that Trump has been lobbying on behalf of the bid behind the scenes.

The US president has reportedly sent three letters to Fifa president Gianni Infantino and other organization officials offering reassurances that his hardline stance on visas would not affect visitors to the country during the tournament.

Our Martha Kelner is at the Expocentre in Moscow. Her sense is a comfortable victory for the North American bid is afoot after the vote, which should begin in roughly one hour.

Mingling with some of the delegates during the break in proceedings and suggestions seem to be for a comfortable victory for the United bid, possibly by a margin of 30/40 votes. The session is running slightly behind schedule but we can probably expect the voting process to start in about an hour.

Confirmation, too, that the number of federations who will vote is 203. That accounts for the four bidding nations who are ineligible, plus three American-governed territories who are expected to abstain (American Samoa will still vote because one of their delegation has a New Zealand passport) plus Ghana, who are not here after corruption allegations.

Gianni Infantino and Vladimir Putin
Fifa president Gianni Infantino and Russian president Vladimir Putin attend the 68th Fifa Congress in Moscow. Photograph: Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

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The Fifa congress is set to resume from a half-hour coffee break momentarily. Item 10 of the agenda is next: Vote on proposals for amendments to the FIFA Statutes, the Regulations Governing the Application of the Statutes and the Standing Orders of the Congress.

The main event, as it were, is Item 13.

We all know the World Cup is big business. But the raw numbers are no less stupefying whenever they’re revealed. To wit, Fifa’s head of finance said today he expects $6.56bn income during the four-year cycle leading up to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

From the Associated Press:

Fifa’s head of finance says he “anticipates strong revenues” leading to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Thomas Peyer tells member federations that income from broadcasting rights will add up to 53% of FIFA’s budgeted income of $6.56bn over the next four years. Around 70% is already contracted.

The extra income lets FIFA promise $1.5m annual grants to each of its 211 member federations. That’s a 20% increase.

Fifa’s budget, which is typically conservative and eventually exceeded, calls for a $100m overall profit through 2022. That should help lift Fifa’s cash reserves close to $2 billion.

How will it work?

The Fifa congress has just broken for a half hour, which is the perfect chance to explain the mechanics of today’s vote.

A detailed outline of the balloting procedure can be found on Fifa’s website, but the CliffsNotes version is as follows: each of Fifa’s member federations one equally weighted vote on the first ballot for one of three options 1) the United Bid, 2) Morocco or 3) None of the Bids. Should either North America or Morocco receive a simple majority of all votes cast, it will be awarded rights to host the 2026 World Cup outright.

If there’s no simple majority on the first ballot, one of two scenarios will ensue: 1) if enough “None of the Bids” votes are cast to prevent either North America or Morocco from surpassing the 50% threshold, the vote will go to a second ballot with the abstention option eliminated, or 2) if the number of “None of the Bids” votes equals or surpasses the combined total of votes for North America or Morocco, then both bids will be thrown out and the bidding process reopened to all eligible Fifa members except for the United States, Canada, Mexico and Morocco – a highly unlikely scenario but one worth mentioning.

Our Martha Kelner, on the ground in Moscow, reports that at least 201 of Fifa’s 211 member associations will take place in today’s vote. The four bidding nations will not take part (per usual), while Morocco has lobbied for Fifa to exclude the US-governed territories of Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the US Virgin Islands due to a perceived conflict of interest (though it’s unclear at this point whether they will indeed abstain). Additionally, Ghana has not sent a representative. Kosovo, whose attendance was in question due to the recent death of their FA’s president, are here and will be voting.

Preamble

Fourteen months ago when the United States launched a joint bid to host the World Cup with Mexico and Canada at a news conference on the 102nd floor of One World Trade Center, the outcome felt like little more than a formality. Even when Morocco announced a bid only hours before the August deadline to deny an unopposed victory to the USA and their junior partners, the so-called United Bid felt like a stone-cold lock.

But a constellation of factors have narrowed the contest in the months leading up to today’s vote at Fifa’s annual congress at Moscow’s Expocentre, where insiders on Tuesday said the decision was “too close to call”.

Now the moment of truth is a little more than an hour away. But right now Vladimir Putin is at the dais.

Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin speaks at the Fifa Congress in Moscow. Photograph: Fifa TV

Bryan will be here shortly but Fifa’s congress has kicked off in Moscow, where the organisation is preparing to choose between Morocco and a joint North American bid to host the 2026 World Cup. More than 200 national football federations are to set to vote at around midday local time in Moscow (10am BST) at their annual meeting one day before the 2018 World Cup kicks off.

Fifa members must pick between the financial security of the United States-Canada-Mexico bid where all venues are ready, and a Moroccan bid that needs to build or renovate all 14 stadiums for a 48-team tournament. Mexico has twice hosted the World Cup, in 1970 and 1986, the US hosted in 1994, while Morocco has lost in four previous bid campaigns. The president, Gianni Infantino, has begun his introduction. Here are some of the highlights so far …

Talking about when he took over:

At that time Fifa was clinically dead as an organisation … two years later Fifa is alive and well, full of joy and passion and with a vision for its future.

On his belief that Fifa is modernising:

Of course we can do things better and we are trying to do this better. We have demonstrated we are a modern organisation. For the first time in a World Cup, VAR will be used by the referees.

On his hopes to change the way in which transfer are dealt with:

We are working on a real revolution on the transfer of players because we need to put an end to what sometimes seems an ugly image around transfers. We need to provide greater transparency. We need to protect our players & the clubs that train players.

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