Crucially, India also voted in favour of the winning North American bid and have a realistic chance for a World Cup dream.
The 68th FIFA Congress was held at Moscow’s Expocentre on the eve of the 2018 FIFA World Cup to be held in the country. The Congress deliberated on a number of important issues, but the main focus was the designation of the hosts for the 2026 World Cup which was awarded to the United bid from North America, comprising of the football associations of Canada, Mexico and the United States.
Apart from the United bid, the other bid vying for host status was from the Royal Moroccan Football Federation who were hoping to bring the global football spectacle to Africa for only the second time. However, before even voting began, the North American bid emerged as a more formidable one than their African rivals according to FIFA’s evaluation process.
FIFA’s Bid Evaluation Task Force, which inspected both bids 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.
Following allegations of rampant corruption that saw the 2018 and 2022 editions of the tournament go to Russia and Qatar respectively, rules were changed significantly for the selection of hosts for 2026. This time around all the 211 member nations under FIFA were allowed to exercise their votes for finalising the host nation for the competition due in eight years time.
Out of the 200 valid votes polled at the Congress, the United bid secured 134 votes and an overwhelming majority of 67%. While the Moroccan bid could only garner the support of 65 member associations. Crucially, India voted in favour of the winning North American bid.
This is the first time the World Cup will be jointly hosted by three nations. It has emerged that the tournament will be held in 16 cities, two in Canada, four in Mexico and the other 10 in the USA.
It will be the first time the World Cup will return to the CONCACAF region after 32 years, since the USA hosted it in 1994. That edition still holds the record for the highest attendance at games among all the 20 instalments of the completion till date, with 3.59m people having thronged the stadiums.
In the build-up to the Congress, it was widely reported that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will see an increase in the number of participating teams from 32 to 48. But, FIFA President Gianni Infantino put an end to the speculation by revealing that a proposal to increase the number of teams in the 2022 edition has been withdrawn.
The 2026 World Cup will hence become the first tournament to feature 48 teams as it was unanimously decided by the FIFA Council in early 2017.
With the increase in the total number of World Cup slots, the Asian teams, especially India will have a better chance of making to the event.