Apart from an unforeseen situation, the winning bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup will come down to two teams. The heavy favorite North America bid consisting of Canada, Mexico and the United States take on a largely unknown Morocco bid.
It would seem that the North America bid would no doubt be the best bid and would win but it’s not that easy. This is FIFA we’re talking about here. And someone from FIFA’s old guard has reared his ugly head to endorse Morocco, former corrupt president Sepp Blatter.
Blatter, tweeting for the first time in a couple weeks, posted his support for the Morocco bid despite nobody really knowing how they would host the expanded 48-team tournament.
— Joseph S Blatter (@SeppBlatter) February 22, 2018
First off, while Blatter probably still has some loyalists within FIFA, his endorsement is virtually worthless now he’s not involved in FIFA. I’m also not entirely surprised that Blatter would end up endorsing Morocco. Even though we don’t know the bid, I don’t think that matters to Blatter.
For one thing, Blatter has a deep affinity for the African continent. I was one of the few people who watched the FIFA propaganda film United Passions but after looking past the general horribleness of the film, it showed that Blatter became president because he paid attention to Africa and gave those countries opportunities while his opposition largely ignored them. And in a vote where each nation gets a vote, Africa is a powerful continent and they helped Blatter get elected.
In addition, Blatter likely has a dim view on a country who is trying to extradite him to stand trial so his hatred for the United States with his love for Africa and Morocco probably fuels his endorsement.
But that could be a way for Morocco to win the bid. Assuming both bids are accepted by FIFA this summer, it comes down to a vote in a couple years to determine who hosts. FIFA has 211 nations and will have 207 votes after the hosts are excluded from voting. That means the winner just needs 104 votes to host. Assuming Africa votes for Morocco and CONCACAF votes for the North American bid in a bloc, that already makes it 53-32 for Morocco and they would already be halfway to winning. Add in political reasons like worldwide feelings about President Donald Trump and fears about athletes from around the world being able to get into the United States, as well as Morocco being a more attractive time zone option for UEFA and it’s not unrealistic for Morocco to win regardless of what their bid looks like.
One issue with Blatter’s tweet is that he assumes that FIFA won’t accept a joint bid and that’s wrong. Yes, a joint bid wasn’t accepted in 2018 or 2022 but Gianni Infantino, the current president, endorses joint bidding and I have to imagine if he’s for it, many go along with what the president says so I don’t think that’ll factor in anything.
We may get an idea of who votes before the actual vote takes place now that FIFA has ended the ban on public endorsements of candidates. There are some limitations like only being able to make statements that support the bid you endorse and not go negative on the opposition or publicly endorse bloc voting within a confederation but surely that is going to happen anyway behind-the scenes.