In a blessed confluence of somewhat unexpected events, Donald Trump’s presidency has thus far avoided bringing permanent ruin to the country and the world. The sheer odiousness of his status as president of the U.S. does, however, appear at risk of ruining this country’s shot at hosting the 2026 World Cup.
In June of this year, the members of FIFA will convene in Moscow just a few days before this summer’s World Cup for a meeting during which they will award the hosting rights for the 2026 edition of the tournament. There are currently only two bids before them: Morocco’s bid and a joint North American one that would see the U.S., Canada, and Mexico all hosting the event.
On paper, the North American bid should be the huge favorite. The 2026 World Cup will be the first one to include the (dumb and bad) expanded 48-team format, which means the host’s infrastructural might—things like easy travel accommodations, many large venues for the matches, lots of hotels for teams and fans, etc.—will be even more important than usual. Obviously, the U.S. (which is where the bulk of the matches would be played), Canada, and Mexico are much better equipped on that front than a tiny country like Morocco.
On top of that, by the time 2026 rolls around there will have been two European World Cups, two Asian ones, and one each for South America and Africa since the last time North America hosted the tournament in the U.S. in 1994. In other words, we’re due for one. And when you factor in that 1994's U.S.-hosted edition remains the most profitable World Cup ever, basically every criteria FIFA weighs when choosing between the host bids counts in North America’s favor. The feeling has long been that CONCACAF’s bid would cruise along to acceptance.
And yet, according to an ESPN report, the current state of the North American bid is much more tenuous than the aforementioned facts would seem to imply. As the report put it, “some estimates of voting totals having Morocco not just threatening the North American bid, but actually beating it.” The reasons for this are pretty obvious when you think about it, and boil down mainly to the ways America has seriously pissed off large chunks of the world in recent times.
Apparently, many people around the globe take offense to the political ascent of crass jingoism that is usually found riding that narrow band of thoughtspace between borderline racism and explicit, unabashed, real-deal racism. Go figure. After pointing out all the concrete things the U.S./Canada/Mexico bid has going for it, the ESPN article gets into the real issues confronting our chances of hosting the World Cup:
The trickier question for the North American bid is actually something remarkably basic: At this particular moment in time, does the world want to give something nice to the United States?
[T]he North American bid has had to counter an anti-American sentiment that stems largely from actions taken by President Donald Trump’s administration, multiple sources said. Those actions include a travel ban affecting mostly Arab countries, public comments that perpetuate stereotypes and the reported use of profanity in describing poorer countries.
When North American bid officials visit with federation officials in a foreign country, they rarely get questions about stadiums or hotels, according to sources; rather, they have been quizzed about whether the United States can be considered a friendly place for foreigners.
The man whose skin and brain bear uncanny resemblances to a grapefruit is not our bid’s only non-sporting hindrance. Arguably even more concerning to certain FIFA figures than whether America is a friendly place for foreigners is, in the aftermath of the U.S. Department of Justice’s full-scale attack on FIFA’s illegal bribery schemes, whether the country is a friendly place for crooks.
For some of the South American contingent—seeing as that continent’s corrupt officials bore the brunt of the Department of Justice’s hammer of ethics—it’s the FIFA scandal-related prosecutions that have them favoring Morocco over North America. This makes sense when you figure there are probably soccer officials around the world who’d like to attend the 2026 World Cup but would be less inclined to do so were the U.S. made hosts because of those pesky arrest warrants out on their names.
These are still early days in the bidding process, and North America should still be considered favorites to come away with the tournament when it’s actually time to vote. It sucks that America’s doing of the right thing on one hand—taking on FIFA’s rampant corruption—and the wrong thing on the other—handing the presidency to a dumbass diaper baby—might jeopardize what would be such a cool event. At the same time, we can’t pretend that Morocco pulling off the upset and beat the North American bid because of the voters’ political animus would be anything other than perfectly deserved.