SoccerThe 2026 World Cup will be held in United States, Canada and Mexico

The 2026 World Cup will be held in United States, Canada and Mexico

Carlos Cordeiro
President of U.S. Soccer Carlos Cordeiro presents a joint United bid by Canada, Mexico and the United States to host the 2026 World Cup. –AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin

MOSCOW — A combined bid from the United States, Mexico and Canada won the hosting rights for soccer’s 2026 World Cup on Wednesday, bringing the tournament to North America for the first time since the 1994 event on a pledge of record crowds, record revenues and, perhaps crucially, a record $11 billion in profits for FIFA, world soccer’s governing body.

The North American bid defeated its only challenger, Morocco, by a vote of 134-65.

It will be the first time the World Cup is hosted by three countries, but a vast majority of the tournament will be on U.S. soil. Of the 80 matches, 10 will be held in Canada, 10 in Mexico and 60 in the United States — including the final, at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

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The last time the men’s World Cup was in North America was when the United States hosted in 1994. It was held in Mexico in 1970 and 1986, and Canada has never hosted.

Wednesday’s vote was the first in which each FIFA member association was given a say on where the World Cup would be held, and the North Americans rode to victory on a wave of support from the Americas, Europe and Asia, plus a few votes poached from Africa.

After months of meetings and arm-twisting, a campaign that began last August when Morocco jumped into the race on the final day that countries could announce their intention to bid, ended in an instant: with electronic vote totals suddenly flashing onto a giant screen.

The victory spared U.S. Soccer a second stunning defeat in less than a year; the U.S. men’s team is missing the World Cup this summer, its first absence since 1986. The U.S. federation spent more than $6 million — out of a combined budget of about $8 million — to bring the World Cup back to North America, and its first-term president, Carlos Cordeiro, had crisscrossed the globe to meet voters since his election in February.

The North Americans had offered FIFA’s member associations a ready-made World Cup. The 23 stadiums they offered as potential hosts are already built, as is most of the infrastructure the expanded 48-team tournament will need: training sites, hotels, airports, rail lines.

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And, like Morocco, the North Americans also had the full support of their governments. The nations’ so-called United Bid was a rare topic on which the presidents of the three countries found common cause, and the United States government, including President Donald Trump, had mounted a stealthy shadow campaign to try to win over FIFA and its member federations.

The North American bid’s signature selling point, however, was delivered in a language FIFA members long have understood: revenue. The North Americans promised FIFA a record $11 billion profit — a staggering amount of money that could mean as much as $50 million for each national association.

Morocco, which pledged a profit of less than half as large as its rival’s, criticized the focus on money over soccer until the bitter end.

“The United Bid is proposing an offer that is mainly a business proposal for football,” one Moroccan official, Moncef Belkhayat, said Monday. “Their offer is based on dollars, on profit, while Morocco is offering an offer that is based on passion for football, for development of football — not only in Morocco, but also in Africa.”

Morocco’s proposal, too, came with serious concerns. The 2026 World Cup will be the first with 48 teams, a significant expansion from the current 32 and a massive undertaking for any host, especially one going it alone. Morocco would have needed to spend billions of dollars to build nine stadiums and to significantly renovate five others, and do all of it in eight years — four fewer than the 12 FIFA gave to Qatar, which still has not finished the job of getting ready for the 2022 World Cup.

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Then there were the hotels, the highways, the rail links and the facilities to host a tournament set to bring more than 1,100 players and millions of fans to North Africa; all would have needed to be built, at a cost of billions more.