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FIFA: North American 2026 World Cup bid outscores 'high-risk' Morocco

For the first time in 20 years, Morocco have qualified for the World Cup. Can they potentially cause an upset in Russia?

FIFA judged Morocco's 2026 World Cup proposals to be "high-risk" in three areas and offered significant praise for the North American bid, which outscored its rival by a wide margin in an inspection evaluation report published on Friday.

The joint bid from the United States, Canada and Mexico scored 4 out of 5, while Morocco scored 2.7 following FIFA inspections.

Morocco's risks relate to stadiums, accommodation and transport. No part of the North America bid was flagged a high risk, and FIFA said it "has a clear lead" to advance the governing body's mission to "push new boundaries in terms of sports-related technology and engagement" since stadiums and hotels already exist.

FIFA's five-man panel could have disqualified Morocco had the North African country scored less than two overall, and less than two on key measures, including stadiums.

The FIFA Council has to approve both candidates at a June 10 meeting in Moscow. The final vote of up to 207 member federations is on June 13, and the inspection task force scores can be ignored when making their decision.

The 2026 World Cup is the first tournament FIFA has confirmed will expand from 32 to 48 teams -- putting increasing demands on the stadiums and facilities required to stage 80 games.

While Morocco has said it needs to spend almost $16 billion on infrastructure for the 48-team World Cup, including building or renovating all 14 stadiums, North America does not require any tournament-specific building work.

"The amount of new infrastructure required for the Morocco 2026 bid to become reality cannot be overstated," the bid evaluation task force said. "The Morocco 2026 bid and United 2026 bid represent two almost opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to the nature of their bids."

The North Americans scored the only maximum 5 mark for its ticketing and hospitality plans, which helped drive a forecast revenue for the tournament of $14.3 billion, "significantly higher" than Morocco's $7.2 billion.

However, the lowest mark out of 5 for either bid in each of nine categories is 2.0 for the North American bids' projected organising costs, which were driven up by having 16 stadiums instead of the minimum 12.

In 20 categories evaluated for risk, the North American bid had three medium-risk areas -- government support, human rights and labor standards, and organizing costs -- and 17 low-risk. Morocco had the three high-risk sections, 10 medium-risk -- also including human rights and labor standards -- and seven low-risk.

Guillermo Cantu, general secretary of the Mexican football federation, said FIFA's ratings reflected well on the United bid.

"It's a candidature with very low risk, practically none," he said. "It is good for us because it confirms that we have a responsible candidature, with stadiums already constructed, base camps operating and all the communications and lodging ready and operating. In the next eight years, there will be an improvement in infrastructure in stadiums in all North America."

FIFA ordered more-rigorous inspections after criticism of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup votes in 2010, with a five-man delegation this time paying the countries weeklong visits in April.

FIFA sent a second group of officials to Morocco after finding deficiencies in their bid offering, including the stadiums proposed. The Associated Press also revealed that Morocco did not declare its anti-LGBT law to football's governing body in the human-rights risk assessment included in the bid book.

"The documents submitted do not specifically discuss risks to some potentially affected groups, such as representatives of the LGBTI+ community," the FIFA report said. "Also absent from the documents is a comprehensive methodology to prioritize risks."

The new batch of technical staff being deployed from FIFA headquarters to Morocco did not make a similar follow-up visit to North America after the task force inspected the rival bid's facilities this month.

But the North American campaign has been dogged by questions on the impact of policies from the Trump administration, including attempts to implement a ban on travel by residents of six majority-Muslim countries. The U.S. has offered fresh guarantees to FIFA that there will be no discrimination around entry to the United States at a World Cup in 2026.

"Due to new entry regulations that are currently being proposed in the United States in relation to citizens from certain countries, there are significant risks to discrimination-free entry to the country,'' FIFA said.

Scores out of 5 (the various categories carry a different weighting in the overall score):

Overall score: United bid 4.0, Morocco 2.7

Infrastructure

Stadiums: United bid 4.1, Morocco 2.3
Team facilities: United bid 3.7, Morocco 2.9
Accommodation: United bid 3.9, Morocco 2.6
Transport: United bid 4.3, Morocco 2.1
Telecommunications: United bid 4.0, Morocco 3.5
Fan Festival locations: United bid 3.6, Morocco 3.2

Commercial

Organising costs: United bid 2.0, Morocco 3.0
Media and marketing: United bid 4.9, Morocco 4.6
Ticketing and hospitality: United bid 5.0, Morocco 2.4

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