FA to meet Moroccan and United bids as 2026 World Cup decision looms
The two bids for the 2026 World Cup will try to win England's vote on May 31 when they both make presentations to the Football Association board at its next meeting.
The contest between Morocco and the United bid from Canada, Mexico and the United States is now too close to call, providing the North African country's bid passes the technical assessment and makes it onto the ballot for the vote in Moscow on June 13.
That decision is expected by the end of the month, and it is understood that Morocco has probably done enough to convince the bid evaluation task force it can host a 48-team event and deliver the once-every-four-year windfall FIFA needs to finance its activities.
The United bid, on the other hand, has few headaches on the technical front and its projected revenues made it the obvious front-runner, as well as being FIFA president Gianni Infantino's preferred option.
But the policies of the Trump administration and rhetoric of the president himself have impacted upon the United bid and raised questions about the type of governmental interference that FIFA forbids. Meanwhile, Morocco has worked hard to accentuate the positives of its more compact offer, European-friendly time zone and undisputed passion for the game.
As well as seeing the FA on May 31, the Moroccan bid is scheduled to meet eight other European federations in Hungary on May 29 -- their Hungarian hosts, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Lichtenstein, Poland, Slovakia and Switzerland -- and the Football Association of Wales on June 4.
The Scottish FA has already met both bids and a spokesperson told Press Association Sport: "We listened to and were impressed by their proposals. It is now a matter for our board to consider.''
In the past, the allocation of World Cups was in the gift of FIFA's executive committee, a group of senior football officials from around the globe that has now been replaced by the slightly larger FIFA Council.
But the controversy caused by the decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, respectively, and the corruption scandal that erupted in the years after that 2010 vote, forced FIFA to overhaul the bidding process.
Assuming Morocco passes the technical assessment, the two very different bids will be voted on by FIFA's remaining 207 member associations, although that number may be reduced if Morocco is successful in a complaint about four U.S. territories -- American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands -- having a conflict of interest.
Neither side wants to talk about guaranteed support at this stage, but Morocco appears to be leading in terms of declared backers, with the majority of the African confederation expected to vote for them, and several Francophone nations, Qatar, Russia and half of the Oceania confederation also believed to be in favour of their bid.
The United bid, as one would expect, is strong in its backyard, with most nations in North, Central and South America expected to back its pitch, as well as U.S. allies in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia.
There is also a school of thought that some member associations will publicly support Morocco now but ultimately vote for the North American bid's financial security when it comes to the crunch.
Even so, in a fight that is much closer than anyone predicted even two months ago when the bids were formally submitted, Europe, and its 55 votes, looks like the key battleground.