The 2026 World Cup

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The fútbol gods giveth and the fútbol gods taketh away.

The US men’s national team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, but this year’s despair was turned into 2026’s glory, as the United States, along with Mexico and Canada, was awarded the right to host the globe’s most popular sporting event eight years from now.

This means that all three North American host countries will receive automatic bids to compete in the 2026 tournament (though that hasn’t officially been decided yet, but come on, of course they will).

North America edged out fellow finalist Morocco by a count of 134 votes to 65 from FIFA voters for the right to host the event. The landslide win was met with relief, jubilation and some surprise from American soccer fans, who were worried that Morrocco would edge out the United States in the same fashion as Qatar eight years ago — with the power of corruption.

Under FIFA’s old system, a few dozen high-level officials decided who would be awarded a bid, but in the organization’s new system, each member country places a public vote. The new system was initiated after the FBI and Swiss authorities opened investigations into the 2018 and 2022 bids, which were reportedly rife with bribery and other forms of good old-fashioned corruption.

I’m skeptical that FIFA has entirely cleaned up its act, but I’m sure the new and transparent voting process helped ensure that there wouldn’t be another Qatar situation.

I was mentally preparing myself for a Morocco bid because of FIFA’s reputation for graft and the inverse Moroccan benefit of having little present infrastructure to support the competition.

Moroccan officials claimed they would need to invest $16 billion into infrastructure in order to support the tournament adequately, and if there’s anything FIFA loves, it’s selecting countries with poor infrastructure to host tournaments in order to secure some sweet kickbacks from developers (e.g., Brazil and Qatar).

Yet in this case, it seemed to actually benefit the United States that we have roads and stuff.

The 2026 bid will be the first time since 1994 that the tournament has taken place in the United States. 60 of the 80 games will be hosted on American soil (hopefully some in the Bay Area), while Canada and Mexico will each host 10 games. The final will likely take place at MetLife Stadium outside of New York City.

Hosting the tournament should dramatically increase investment in the sport stateside and could have positive long-term effects on the sport going forward, considering that last time the United States hosted it, MLS was left in its wake, and a whole new generation was inspired to follow and participate in the “Beautiful Game.” Who knows where things will go in a post-2026 World Cup United States? Perhaps men’s soccer will catch up with our women!

A man can dream, can’t he?

Rory O’Toole writes for Bear Bytes, the Daily Californian’s sports blog. Contact him at [email protected].