FIFA World Cup 2026 Vote Live: North America vs. Morocco

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He drops the $11 billion profit line, how that can be turned back to FIFA members for development.

“It will be our honor to host the most extraordinary World Cup ever,” Cordeio says.

These brief speeches are an interesting, inclusive closing argument. Short enough to stress diversity and not bore the audience.

Breaking News: Spain Fires Coach Julen Lopetegui

In a stunning move two days before its World Cup opener against Portugal, Spain has fired its coach, Julen Lopetegui. Lopetegui accepted the vacant Real Madrid job this week, and that infuriated his bosses at the Spanish federation. But now one of the World Cup’s top contenders has been thrown into disarray only days before its first match. Rory Smith is working the story, and we’ll have more in a bit.

Votes vs. Votes Cast

Just to clear up something before we head to the final vote: the decision on the 2026 host will be made on “a simple majority (more than 50%) of the valid votes cast,” according to the rules. That’s important, since about 10-15 votes have been missing in each of the votes so far, for reasons of disinterest or problems with voters who cannot sort out the electronic voting device in order to submit their votes correctly.

Back From the Break

The congress returns from a half-hour coffee break with a third test of the electronic voting system. This time the question is, “If FIFA headquarters located in Zurich, Switzerland?” And yet again, not everyone casts a valid vote, and the percentage of correct answers is only 95. Hmmmmm.

South Africa Flipping?

South Africa’s Sunday Times reports South Africa’s soccer federation will go back on its early support for Morocco and back the North American bid for the 2026 World Cup instead. “South Africa will break ranks with the majority of the rest of the continent and vote for the joint North American bids rather than Morocco,” the paper’s Mark Gleeson reports.

Putin Arrives in the Hall

Well this was not on the printed agenda, but Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, has arrived to address the FIFA Congress. Infantino greets him with a modified bro hug — baller move — and Putin steps to the lectern.

“Our goal is for all our guests — football stars or regular fan — to feel the hospitality and welcoming nature of our nation, to understand our unique culture and unique nature and for the fans to want to come back,” he says. “We hope to see you all at the opening match. Welcome to Russia.”

Annnnd we take a half-hour break. Surely wonderful news to Americans who woke up in the middle of the night for this.

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“Welcome to Russia,” the country’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, told the FIFA delegates.

Credit
Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Compliance speeches and budget reports at 4 a.m. on the East Coast of the United States are a special kind of sleep aid. Kudos to anyone toughing it out while they are waiting for the 2026 vote.

Blatter Weighs In

From The Associated Press: The former FIFA President Sepp Blatter is claiming credit for Morocco’s not being eliminated by inspectors as a candidate to host the 2026 World Cup.

Blatter, who was ousted from power at FIFA in 2015 over financial misconduct, has publicly backed the Morocco bid.

He told the A.P. that “I was fighting for Morocco and for Africa because at a certain time (FIFA) wanted to eliminate Morocco before going to the vote, and now, they are at the vote and I think it’s a victory also of my intervention, especially.”

Morocco was scored 2.7 out of 5 by FIFA’s inspection task force, which marked the North America bid a 4 in the same report last month. Morocco would have been disqualified if it had scored lower than 2.

Back From the Dead

More Infantino: the president also reminded members of the state the organization was in when he took control in 2016, describing FIFA as “clinically dead” then. He then tells them that under his stewardship it is now “alive and full of passion with with a vision for its future.”

Infantino Sings the Standards, in Four Languages

FIFA President Gianni Infantino, shifting effortlessly among four languages, uses his address to the congress to highlight FIFA’s development spending and his work expanding revenues. This is a standard for FIFA presidents when they talk to the organization’s many smaller countries, and it is a point that got him elected in 2016 — after he promised to double development payments to member nations. But experienced listeners among you probably got the subtle hint he was sending ahead of the 2026 vote that one bid promises to bring in more than twice as much revenue as the other.

Those billions of dollars from the World Cup are where FIFA’s development money comes from, and Infantino is basically saying today that the more of that revenue there is to spread around as investments in global soccer, the better.

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FIFA President Gianni Infantino highlighted the organization’s improved financial state in his remarks.

Credit
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Sweden for North America

The president of Sweden’s soccer association, Karl-Erik Nilsson, told a radio interviewer that his country would vote for the North American bid today. That’s three Nordic countries to commit to the North American bid in the last hour.

No Ghana

Ghana is announced as absent in the roll call. That leaves 210 members in attendance at the congress, and since the four bidding nations cannot cast a ballot, it means that the magic number to guarantee victory in the 2026 vote remains at 104. Morocco has been pressing to bar four American territories from voting, too, but the North Americans will be expected to contest that.

Late Night? For Many, Yes

A note from a bleary-eyed Tariq Panja, who was out very late reporting on Tuesday: Teams from both bids worked well into the early morning Wednesday to target swing voters from Europe and Asia. Shortly after 12.30 a.m., a delegation from Morocco swept into the five-star Baltschug Kempinski hotel. They were followed less than 10 minutes later by a team from the North American bid, including U.S. President Carlos Cordeiro.

The two bid teams had been shadowing each other’s movements for the entire week in Moscow, visiting various confederation meetings, and the trip to the Baltschug Kempinski, the Asian associations’ hotel, was a sign that both bidders remained convinced they still had a chance to secure sport’s biggest prize.

The North American bid was able to lean on vocal and practical support from Saudi Arabia weeks before the final vote. The Saudis arranged meetings with other Asian nations in Jidda last month, and, leaving nothing to chance, they lobbied on behalf of the North Americans until the final moments.

Hours earlier, and perhaps the biggest sign of the unpredictable nature of FIFA elections, the Netherlands, which had given the North American bid every indication that its vote was secured, announced it would support Morocco instead.

Two More for North America

Finland and Denmark both announced this morning that they would support the North American bid for the 2026 World Cup.

A Little Comedy to Start

The congress begins with two tests of the voting system that will become the star later. FIFA’s Secretary General, Fatma Samoura, asks the members to answer two questions: Is the 68th FIFA Congress taking place in Moscow? And, Is the 2018 World Cup taking place in Moscow. Troublingly, the correct answer — “yes” — gets only 95 percent. “I think those that have voted no have had a long night, or a short night, depending on how you want to see it,” FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino, jokes before starting his welcoming remarks.

One other curious thing about those votes: 18 voters didn’t answer the first one, and 22 didn’t answer the second. Let’s hope it’s that they just couldn’t be bothered, instead of a problem with (or a misunderstanding of how to use) the electronic voting devices.

What Else Is on the Agenda Today?

The 2026 vote is the headliner, but FIFA has other matters on the agenda, too. There will be consideration of proposed changes to FIFA’s statutes, and the potential for the suspension or expulsion of members (Ghana’s soccer association, for example, is in the middle of a serious corruption crisis). FIFA will approve a budget — The Times got hold of those numbers yesterday — and plenty of arcane talk of rules and committee assignments.

World Cup 2026 Top Story Lines

• The race for the 2026 World Cup began last August. For a while, it appeared the North Americans — who had announced their intentions in April — would bid alone. But Morocco jumped in on the final day for countries to announce they would bid; the decision forced the North Americans to rewrite their news releases, but it did not diminish their role as the favorite.

• FIFA technical inspectors performed site inspections during visits to both bids in April. Their resulting report rated the North American bid as “very good” but declared the Moroccan effort merely “sufficient.” While the inspectors did not eliminate Morocco from the race, they noted pointed concerns about its ability to host.

• To win the right to host the World Cup, one bid must gain a simple majority of votes from FIFA’s member associations, who each get a say this year. It is the first time FIFA’s membership has had a say; in the past, the hosting rights were awarded in a secret vote of FIFA’s governing council.

• The North American bid is built around the words “unity, certainty and opportunity.” It is offering a choice from among 23 existing stadiums in 16 cities in the three countries. But its main selling point is money: the bid’s leaders have tempted voters with the promise of a record $11 billion payday for FIFA and its members.

• Morocco has bristled at all the talk of money, perhaps because there is no way it can match it. Instead, the Moroccans have billed their country’s “passion” for soccer and its proximity to valuable European television markets, where its matches would air in prime time.

• Morocco’s main problem is infrastructure; it would need to build nine stadiums for the event, not to mention roads, rail lines and hotels, among many other investments.

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