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US, Canada, Mexico unite long enough to win 2026 World Cup bid

Moscow: Nations at the 68th Fifa Congress in Moscow backed North America’s joint bid to host the 2026 World Cup. With a handful of games in Mexico and Canada but the majority in the US, the 2026 bid promises the richest and most lucrative tournament in the history of global football.

The expanded 2026 event, featuring 48 teams for the first time, will be played in 16 different cities — 10 in the US, plus three sites in both Canada and Mexico. The US will host 60 of the 80 matches, including the final, scheduled for MetLife Stadium outside New York City.

“It’s a bit emotional for us today,” Carlos Cordeiro, president of US Football, said after the vote. “The beautiful game transcends borders and cultures. Football today is the only victor, and in that spirit, we wish our Russian hosts and all the teams participating here this month, the very best of luck.”

The winning bid got 134 votes, compared to 65 for Morocco. There was one abstention.

Wednesday’s vote, held in Moscow on the eve of this year’s tournament, was about much more than just the 2026 host nation. Many in the international community viewed this decision as a reflection of how far Fifa has come after years of scandal and widespread corruption, some of which was tied to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding processes.

When Gianni Infantino replaced embattled Sepp Blatter as president of football’s governing body in 2016, he acknowledged that the organisation was “in a crisis” and promised reforms.

On paper, it was hard to make the case for Morocco. Canada, Mexico and the US are home to a combined 491 million people and two of the world’s biggest media markets. All of the proposed stadiums exist already. And perhaps most persuasive, the North American bid promised Fifa a record $11 billion in profit, nearly double the $6.6 billion that governing body expects to earn in the 2022 event in Qatar and more than double the $5 billion estimated by Morocco.

The money promised by the North American bid will be a strong boost to Fifa. The Switzerland-based organisation reports its revenue in four-year cycles, and most recently claimed $5.7 billion for the cycle culminating in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

The tumultuous last four years, plus the controversy over Russia, has made the 2015-18 cycle a “tougher sell,” according to Nielsen, and the next four years leading up to the Qatar event might be equally rough. Citing a number of high-profile sponsors dropping Fifa, London newspaper The Independent reported that Fifa’s 2018 World Cup sponsorship revenues were down $240 million.

On Wednesday Trump tweeted his congratulations, saying the winning bid was the result of “a great deal of hard work.”

The US last hosted the World Cup in 1994, an event that eventually gave rise to Major League Football, now in its 23rd season. The 3.6 million attendees remain a World Cup record, despite the fact that only 24 nations competed at the time. Mexico hosted the World Cup in 1986; Canada never has.

“The fact that Mexico, Canada and the US can come together and organise the world’s biggest sporting event is a nice message,” Fifa head Infantino said at a news conference. “And that’s something we have to be happy for.”

Typically, the host nation gets an automatic berth in the World Cup but Infantino said the regional football federation, Concacaf, must decide whether to use its slots for all three squads. The region has seven slots, six automatic and then two “halfs” that allow teams to qualify through a play-off.

Mexico has played in every World Cup since 1990. Canada qualified once, in 1986. The US team failed to qualify this year.

Infantino also announced that he will stand for re-election as the head of football’s world governing body next year.

Infantino said earlier that Fifa had been “clinically dead” when he took over in 2016 from long-time president Blatter who was engulfed by corruption allegations.

Two years later, it was “very much alive” and full of “joy”, with a clear vision for its future, Infantino said in remarks to the Fifa Congress in Moscow.

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