The coveted rights to be the host country of the most popular sports tournament in the world could return to Africa in 2026. Ever since South Africa hosted the FIFA World Cup in 2010, many African nations have been pondering the possibility of hosting this tournament, and Morocco is a leading country in this regard.
While this is not the first time that Morocco has submitted a World Cup bid, things are looking better for the Royal Moroccan Football Federation this time. Previous bids tendered by Morocco were easily dismissed because they appeared to have been formulated in haste and without serious commitment. Now that the World Cup is moving to a new format featuring 48 national teams, Morocco’s bid is looking more attractive according to analysts who believe that this African nation could receive the required 104 votes from the 211 FIFA representatives.
Until recently, the strongest bid to host the 2026 World Cup was tendered by a joint North American project that included the United States, Canada and Mexico; however, an update by the Moroccan Football Federation and the current state of American politics has shifted sentiment from North America to North Africa.
Many bids to host the World Cup are easily brushed aside because they are presented with very little information; such was the case with Morocco until a comprehensive bid package was submitted in late February. Compared to the bid from North America, Morocco’s proposal is more enticing. While some critics have commented that this is a small country, this argument is rendered moot by the 32-team World Cup that will be hosted by Qatar in 2022. In fact, FIFA officials are warming up to the idea of World Cup tournaments that do not subject teams and their fans to very long flights; this was the case in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and the same will happen later this year in Russia. In a North American World Cup, fans could be forced to fly from Mexico City to Montreal and later to Miami during the group stages.
In terms of infrastructure, Morocco has been improving considerably since 2010; this is a country that has shown commitment to protecting tourism and the revenue it derives. Although Morocco will have eight years to build seven more stadiums to accommodate the new World Cup format, the Confederation of African Football has promised to assist in this regard.
Morocco has a great time zone advantage for televised matches, which means that FIFA representatives from Europe and Africa are likely to give their votes to this country. More importantly, Morocco is not ruled by the policies of US President Donald Trump, a political leader that has succeeded in alienating his country from the rest of the world, and this is a factor that FIFA members will certainly consider when they vote later this year.