FIFA publishes bid books as Morocco closes in on US-led bid for 2026 World Cup

FIFA publishes bid books as Morocco closes in on US-led bid for 2026 World Cup

FIFA boss Gianni Infantino has claimed that the process for choosing where the 2026 World Cup will be played is the fairest, most objective and most transparent in world sport.

Infantino's bold assertion comes as FIFA publishes the bid books for the two bids: a United bid from Canada, Mexico and the United States, and Morocco's fifth bid in 30 years.

This step is just one of numerous changes to the bidding process after the highly contentious 2010 race that saw Russia win the right to stage this summer's World Cup and Qatar land the 2022 tournament.

In a statement, Infantino said: "I challenge anyone to point out an organisation that conducts a bidding process as fair, objective and transparent as the one that FIFA is carrying out for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

"FIFA has been heavily criticised for how it conducted the selection of hosts in the past; it was our obligation to learn from this and leave no room for any doubt or subjectivity. These are necessary steps to ensure that we never go back to the 'old ways'."

The details of the American-led United bid have been known for some time, as has its main selling points of almost guaranteed record revenues, already-built and paid-for stadia and another opportunity to promote the game in the world's largest market.

Far less, on the other hand, has been known about Morocco's bid, with the basics only emerging recently.

And while the United bid has listed 23 cities - all with world-class facilities - that it can whittle down to 16 host cities, the Moroccan bid is based on renovating five old venues, building three new ones and six "legacy modular stadiums" that can be dismantled afterwards and used elsewhere.

With the 2026 World Cup growing from 32 to 48 teams, the United bid has been the hot favourite to win the vote in Moscow on June 13 since America's interest first emerged, but recent events have made this race much closer than anybody could have predicted.

First, Donald Trump was elected as US president on an 'America first', anti-immigration platform that has seen him place visa restrictions on some Muslim countries, allegedly make disparaging remarks about several poorer nations, withdraw from a global environment deal, flout world opinion by moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and pursue his promise to build a wall on the Mexican border.

Second, the US men's team failed to qualify for Russia 2018, unlike Morocco; and third, the first actual FIFA-related trial took place in New York, reminding voters of the central role the US played in plunging FIFA into chaos.

And finally, there has been the Moroccan bid itself. While it lacks the United bid's economic muscle, it can promise a football-mad population, a much smaller footprint for travelling fans and an attractive timezone for football's European powerhouses.

Taken together, these factors could add up to another shock, particularly as this decision will be decided by 207 member associations and not the bosses on FIFA's Council.

That said, the Moroccan bid must still make sure it is on the ballot and that means it will need to convince the bid evaluation task-force it can deliver on the technical requirements.

Each bid will be marked for its plans for infrastructure, legacy plans, revenues and so on, with the FIFA Council getting the last say on whether those plans are credible.

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