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South Africa backs Morocco for 2026 World Cup

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JOHANNESBURG (AP) South African soccer leader Danny Jordaan has promised Morocco “unqualified support” to host the 2026 World Cup in a contest against a combined North American bid.

The South African federation said Monday that Jordaan assured a visiting Morocco bid delegation “he will personally lobby” African officials ahead of the scheduled vote in Moscow on June 13.

Morocco is up against a United States-Canada-Mexico bid to stage the continent’s second World Cup. South Africa hosted in 2010, after beating Morocco and Egypt in a vote.

That South African bid is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice for a suspicious $10 million payment to FIFA voters in the North American region. In indictments published by the justice department in 2015, two of the listed “co-conspirators” are South African soccer officials who are not identified.

Now, Morocco is competing against the Americans to co-host the 48-team tournament. Up to 207 FIFA member federations will vote at their congress on the eve of the World Cup in Russia.

North American bid leaders targeted the 14-member southern African soccer body COSAFA at a February meeting in Johannesburg.

Report: France expected to vote against U.S. in 2026 bid

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What once seemed like a certainty is now once again proving to be a nightmare for the United States, as the country’s United bid took a major hit on Thursday.

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L’Equipe spoke with French football president Noel Le Graet, who has stated that France will vote in favor of Morocco ahead of the 2026 FIFA World Cup, leaving the United bid of the United States, Mexico and Canada with another major setback in its plans to host the tournament.

“I don’t see myself not supporting a country that is close to us,” Le Graet said. “Africa has only had one World Cup. That’s not a lot.

“Morocco is ready, even if they don’t have the same means as their fellow contenders. France only has one vote, but perhaps we will give momentum in Europe to choose Morocco.”

Earlier on Thursday, it was reported that two CONCACAF nations — Dominica and Saint Lucia — would also vote for Morocco, going against their fellow North and Central American allies.

The United bid looked a strong favorite to host in 2026 when it was first announced, particularly given the United States’ success hosting the World Cup back in 1994, however, recently the attention has shifted to Morocco, with the country receiving significant support from not only African nations but also Asia and South America, too.

In the voting process for the 2022 World Cup, the U.S. was faced with a similar task in trying to obtain hosting rights. The CONCACAF nation ultimately lost out on hosting to Qatar, despite major links to voter corruption.

Voting for the 2026 World Cup will take place in Russia on June 13, the day before this summer’s tournament takes place.

Morocco gets two CONCACAF endorsements in 2026 World Cup hosting race

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Everything is going to be fine, even if the 2026 World Cup does not arrive on the shores of the United States. Just remind yourself that.

Morocco will feel it has landed some shots — pun very much intended — against the tri-bid of Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. with the endorsement of CONCACAF nations Dominica and Saint Lucia.

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“Dominica, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria, has a lot to learn from Morocco, which could help us become the first climate resilient country in the world,” said Dominica foreign minister Francine Baron in a release.

“Morocco has never ceased to provide assistance and expertise to farmers in my country,” said Saint Lucien minister of development and sports Edmund Estephane.

A failure to land the 2026 World Cup would be another shot at the legacy of former U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, who has overseen much growth in the country but did not seek reelection following Bruce Arena’s failure to lead the USMNT into the 2018 World Cup.

FIFA’s ‘white elephants’ warning after Morocco bid criticism

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FIFA issued its second rebuke inside a week to Morocco’s World Cup bid for questioning the fairness of the process while warning it does not want unsuitable “white elephant” stadiums built for the 2026 tournament.

The process has been designed to end the “secret and subjective decisions” of the past, FIFA said after its president, Gianni Infantino, received a letter from Morocco complaining that the governing body had imposed burdensome demands for technical criteria that the bids will be scored on.

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The protest is an indication of Morocco’s exasperation ahead of the June vote as it challenges a rival bid from North America, which already has the infrastructure to cope with the first World Cup to be held after the expansion from 32 to 48 finalists. Morocco, by contrast, has to build or renovate all 14 stadiums and up to 150 training grounds as part of a $15.8 billion project to host the nation’s biggest-ever sporting event.

Responding to Morocco’s concerns, FIFA told The Associated Press on Tuesday: “In order to avoid unsustainable bids … with the creation of `white elephants’ – something FIFA has been heavily criticized for in the past – the scoring system evaluates with objective criteria how meaningful and sustainable is the infrastructure presented in the bids.”

The role of FIFA’s bid inspectors has been strengthened in response to concerns in 2010 that FIFA’s executive committee voted for Russia and Qatar in the dual 2018 and 2022 hosting votes despite those countries being evaluated as the highest-risk contenders.

Voting this time will be expanded to the FIFA membership, with up to 207 federations eligible. The bidding nations cannot vote, including the North American trio of the United States, Mexico and Canada, who announced Tuesday that they had secured the support of Saudi Arabia.

The 2026 contest could see bids be declared ineligible before the FIFA Congress vote on June 13 if they are scored lowly by a task force. Morocco federation president Fouzi Lekjaa objected to Infantino that they only received details of the scoring system on March 14, two days before deadline to receive bid books. The rival bid, which would see the U.S. host 60 of the 80 games, said it received the details at the same time.

“As a matter of principle, the basis of the preparation of a bid should not be the scoring system for the technical evaluation but rather the requirements which FIFA has provided to the bidders in 2017 through the bidding and hosting requirements,” FIFA said, dismissing Morocco’s objections.

The technical evaluation will assess if bids meet minimum requirements over infrastructure, costs and revenue projections.

“Contrary to what the FRMF (the Moroccan federation federation) implies, the hosting requirements, which were clearly set in the bidding registration and other bidding/hosting documents provided in 2017, have not changed,” FIFA said. “The scoring system merely provides a methodology for evaluating and documenting the extent to which the bids submitted fulfil those requirements in certain key areas.”

Morocco said it will spend around $3 billion on stadiums and training grounds. The North American bid said it needs to spend $30 million-$40 million to install grass at stadiums, which don’t require any significant modification for the World Cup.

In correspondence with FIFA seen by the AP, Morocco expressed unhappiness that the population of host cities has be at least 25,000, airports must have the capacity for 60 million passengers a year and that the travel time from the airport to the city must be a maximum 90 minutes. A low score on those specific criteria would not see a bidder excluded, FIFA assured Morocco on Tuesday.

“A host city could still meet the minimum requirements for transport without meeting such an individual requirement on the location of the airport, in particular if other criteria are satisfied,” FIFA said.

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.

Bids must score at least a 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” that could see the bid disqualified by FIFA.

Morocco anticipates raising $785 million from 3.5 million tickets sold, while North America forecasts generating $2.1 billion from 5.8 million tickets. FIFA would also earn $300 million more from the North American broadcasters if the 2026 World Cup is played in the region under the terms of contracts already negotiated.

 

“As explained many times, the bidding process for the 2026 FIFA World Cup has been designed to evaluate the bids against objective criteria and so avoid a return to the secret and subjective decisions of the past,” FIFA said Tuesday.

Rob Harris is at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

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Morocco touts gun safety in 2026 World Cup bid against U.S.

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Morocco has touted its limited threat from gun crime in a 2026 World Cup bidding proposal to take on the United States-led rival for the soccer showpiece.

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The north African nation highlights safety for visiting fans in bidding documents published by FIFA on Monday that do however show every stadium and training ground requires building work.

By contrast, the North American bid book says it is the low-risk proposition for FIFA since no infrastructure will be built for the first World Cup after the jump from 32 to 48 finalists.

Morocco’s decision to point to “very low gun circulation” comes amidst the growing call for stricter laws regarding firearms in the U.S. following a school shooting in Florida that left 17 dead.

The U.S. is the dominant partner in a North American bid that includes Canada and Mexico.