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Morocco bid to stay in 2026 World Cup contest vs Americans

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FIFA struggles to move on from the most tainted chapter in its history, even as it attempts to award another World Cup.

With less than three months to go until the host of the 2026 World Cup is decided, FIFA is still assessing allegations of skullduggery around the voting more than seven years ago for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments.

Can the expedited contest between North America and Morocco really be bulletproof, free of scandal, as soccer’s governing body promises?

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There’s intrigue around a process that could see FIFA disqualify a bid before the June vote if it can’t meet the requirements for the first World Cup after the leap from 32 to 48 competing teams.

Morocco’s stadiums require significant upgrades to get close to matching the infrastructure boasted by the North Americans, whose bid includes 16 NFL venues awash in the luxury seating required by FIFA.

But if Morocco is not struck off by a FIFA task force lacking true independence, the vote could be closer than anticipated in part due to new procedures intended to signal a break from the secrecy of the past.

Not only is the decision open to every soccer nation, rather than just the ruling executive that had chosen the World Cup sites from 1986-2022, but each vote is set to be published. That exposes officials to potential intimidation.

The voting regulations will be finalized by the FIFA Council on Friday, just as the bid books are submitted.

Bid bureaucrats will hand over the host city contracts, financial estimates and stadium proposals – rather than star footballers- reflecting a campaign shorn of the razzmatazz witnessed in the buildup to the 2010 votes won by Russia and Qatar.


The United States-led bid, which includes Canada and Mexico as minority partners, hoped to be awarded the hosting rights to one of the biggest events in sports without facing a challenge.

The FIFA Council had other ideas at a meeting last May, giving Morocco a chance to prevent a coronation.

But while the Americans opened their official campaign in April, the Moroccans did not launch theirs in public until January.

Morocco’s bid has been cloaked in secrecy: the international communications team declined to send The Associated Press a copy of the media pack being distributed domestically.

It contained no specific details on the construction requirements and mis-states that 17 people were wounded, rather than killed, in a 2011 Marrakesh bombing in a section seeking to offer assurances on safety.

While the U.S. hosted the World Cup in 1994 before failing to land 2022, Morocco has been unsuccessful four times.

Moroccan officials express irritation when pressed on bribery allegations surrounding its 2010 World Cup campaign that form part of ongoing criminal proceedings in the United States.

Morocco will be hoping the American investigations into FIFA deter voters from taking the World Cup to a country so determined to expose wrongdoing within soccer. Inflammatory comments by U.S. President Donald Trump that have offended parts of the world could also work in Morocco’s favor.

FIFA has faced criticism from the home city of the U.S. Soccer Federation. Chicago refused to sign up to the bid because it believed the tax and legal provisions required pose a risk to the city and shareholders.



The bids offer distinctive proposals. Is FIFA in the mood for another gamble?

Morocco poses more logistical challenges and risks for FIFA, which will be coming off a complex tournament in Qatar in 2022.

There’s significant building work required to upgrade stadiums. The largest venue, in Casablanca, has a capacity of 67,000, whereas FIFA will want a venue with at least 80,000 seats for the opening game and final. Only five other stadiums have a capacity in excess of 40,000.

North America is the easy option. The U.S. would host 60 games in venues requiring only minor construction work, such as hospitality and media facilities, and is touting three stadiums with more than 87,000 seats.

Canada and Mexico, which has the 87,523-capacity Azteca Stadium, will settle for 10 matches each up to the round of 16.

North America will be hoping voters are dazzled by its financial proposition. It’s certainly more favorable for FIFA, which is trying to return to profitability after being hit by the cost of corruption scandals, and the governing body could secure more funds to redistribute to member nations.

FIFA would earn $300 million more from the North American broadcasters if the 2026 World Cup is played in the region under the terms of contracts negotiated to stave off legal action for shifting the dates of the 2022 tournament in Qatar to November, where it overlaps the NFL and college football seasons.


As chief commercial officer at FIFA, Philippe Le Floc’h is responsible for replenishing coffers. That largely requires squeezing cash out of corporate sponsors and maximizing television revenue.

With 48 teams and 80 games to accommodate for the first time, Le Floc’h pointed out “the size and the magnitude” of North America’s proposition helps.

“It would have some commercial attraction,” Le Floc’h said. “It has got infrastructure. They have got massive stadiums because they are used for American Football. So on the pure hospitality point, potentially, we might have more revenues.”

Remaining publicly impartial, Le Floc’h highlighted how Morocco is in “the perfect time zone for Europe and Asia” television audiences.

“There are other ways to generate revenues,” he said, “and the time zone in Morocco could help us.”


In 2010, the now-discredited FIFA executive committee all but ignored the FIFA-produced technical reports that identified Russia and Qatar as the highest-risk bids among nine candidates.

Now a restyled five-man task force, dominated by European officials, will make inspection visits, then grade and score the bids.

Those marks could play a key role in the contest.

Since the panel includes FIFA’s deputy general secretaries – Zvonimir Boban of Croatia and Marco Villiger of Switzerland – it could prove highly contentious if a bid is disqualified. FIFA’s Council must approve the verdict of the task force before the Congress votes.


Infrastructure, of which half relates to stadiums, accounts for 70 percent of the panel’s mark. The remaining 30 percent is based on projected costs and revenues.

“The scores have a bearing on whether or not a bid qualifies for the next stage of the bidding process, with bids shortlisted by the FIFA Council,” according to FIFA.

In a scoring system of 0 to 5 – where 0 means is “no requirements met/very weak” and 5 is “requirements exceeded/excellent” – a bid must average a total of 2, or “minimum requirements met/sufficient,” to be approved ahead of the vote.

In addition, bids must score at least 2 for the individual aspects of stadiums, teams and referee facilities, plus accommodation and transport links.

Failure to score 2 from the task force means a bid “has been evaluated as `high risk’ and represents a material failure,” a FIFA bid regulations document states, whereupon “FIFA shall terminate this Bidding Registration.”



Up to 207 of the 211 member federations will vote on June 13 in Moscow, with the four bidding members excluded.

In aiming for transparency, FIFA’s pledge to publish the choice of each member could affect the voting. The secret ballot in presidential elections allows members to vote freely and defy orders from regional or continental leaders.

Sepp Blatter was president when FIFA last voted on men’s World Cup hosts. While championing Morocco, Blatter questions whether it can count on all 53 votes from Africa.

“Africa is not always united,” Blatter said. But he believes the Americans are “afraid … and give the impression that they are not any longer very sure that they will win.”

More AP World Cup coverage:

USMNT falls back to No. 25 in latest FIFA Rankings

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The U.S. Men’s National Team rounds out the top 25 teams ranked by FIFA in the world soccer governing body’s latest rankings.

FIFA released its March rankings Thursday morning, with Northern Ireland jumping over the USMNT to put the U.S. back at No. 25. It’s the lowest spot for the U.S. since 2016 when it fell to No. 28. England remained at No. 16 in the rankings.

The top five of the rankings remained unchanged with Germany leading followed by Brazil, Portugal, Argentina and Belgium. Poland jumped up to No. 6 in a tie with Spain, and then Switzerland, France and Chile round out the top 10.

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Six teams in the top 25 missed out on the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The USMNT, Northern Ireland, the Netherlands, Wales, Italy and Chile.

Reports: Chicago, Vancouver pull out of World Cup 2026 bid

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Two major North American cities with World Cup-ready stadiums have pulled out of being host cities in the 2026 World Cup bid.

According to two separate reports, both Chicago and Vancouver will not be hosting any World Cup matches should the joint-bid between the U.S., Canada and Mexico win the right to hold the 2026 World Cup in North America.

In both cases, city and state leaders argued that FIFA asked for major financial guarantees without promising a huge return on investment, making the elected officials nervous about moving forward with a bid.

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“FIFA could not provide a basic level of certainty on some major unknowns that put our city and taxpayers at risk,” Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s office said in a statement Wednesday. “The uncertainty for taxpayers, coupled with FIFA’s inflexibility and unwillingness to negotiate, were clear indications that further pursuit of the bid wasn’t in Chicago’s best interests.”

It’s a big loss for the bid to lose these cities, though. Vancouver, who’s BC Place seats 54,000, hosted group stage and knockout round games before hosting the final of the 2015 Women’s World Cup, which the U.S. won in thrilling fashion over Japan. And Chicago, which had previously pulled itself out for the U.S. World Cup bids in 2010 and 2018-2022, hosted the opening match of the 1994 World Cup at Soldier Field and was assumed from the start that the third-largest city in the U.S. by population would be a host city.

As of now, Montreal, Toronto and Edmonton have agreed to move forward with the United 2026 bid, which should be more than enough for the current 10 games Canada will host. Mexico has proposed games played at Estadio Azteca, as well as in Nuevo Leon and Guadalajara.

Meanwhile, the U.S. still has 21 other venues to pick from, including major NFL stadiums such as MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas and the under-construction Los Angeles Stadium in Hollywood Park. FIFA has required the opening-match stadium and final stadium to seat 80,000+, while venues must seat a minimum of 40,000, which would force stadium’s like Toronto’s BMO Field to expand further.

FIFA extends Del Nero ban during bribery investigation

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ZURICH (AP) Brazilian soccer confederation president Marco Polo Del Nero will remain suspended by FIFA for a further 45 days while he is under investigation for taking bribes.

FIFA says its file on Del Nero, who was previously suspended from soccer for 90 days, is now with ethics committee judges, who have formally opened their own proceedings.

The FIFA case against Del Nero is progressing more than two years after he was indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice in its sprawling investigation of international soccer corruption. Del Nero has not been extradited to face charges of racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracies.

Though Del Nero resigned from the FIFA executive committee in 2015, he has continued to preside over the Brazilian confederation.

FIFA apologizes as World Cup ticket site fails to cope

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MOSCOW (AP) FIFA has apologized after its website failed to cope with demand for World Cup tickets.

Many fans spent hours waiting to get into the site after sales reopened Tuesday morning, while others complained they had paid for tickets but didn’t get any confirmation the tickets were reserved.

Writing on Twitter, FIFA says “we are really sorry that problems have been persisting,” adding that “we’ve been informed that the issues relate to the sheer volume of fans accessing the ticketing platform.”

Most World Cup tickets so far have been issued by a lottery with equal chances for fans who apply at any time within a given window.

However, Tuesday marked the start of two sales phases on a first-come, first-served basis before the tournament begins June 14 in Russia.