Just over a year ago, when then-US Soccer President Sunil Galati unveiled the North American bid to host the 2026 World Cup, it looked like a sure-fire winner. No other bid had yet to emerge, and even when Morocco threw its hat into the ring months later, it wasn't given a chance against the mighty Americans and their Mexican and Canadian accomplices.
And with good reason: Even on its own, the United States already has the stadiums and infrastructure to host a World Cup at the drop of a hat if it needed to – and make no mistake, this is very much an American undertaking, with the Mexicans and Canadians simply tagging along.
The Moroccans, on the other hand, would have had to build almost all of the 14 stadiums necessary to host the new mega 48-team World Cup in 2026 from scratch. With all due respect, even hosting a 32-team World Cup would have been a stretch for the North African kingdom of 36 million inhabitants.
And the FIFA Task Force evaluation report confirmed all of this. It gave the Moroccan bid just enough points in its scoring system to allow the vote to actually go ahead, while the "United" North American bid passed with flying colors. The two bids, the report said, represented "two almost opposite ends of the spectrum."
Enter Donald Trump
However, in these times of stunning, unlikely election results, like Brexit, and US President Donald Trump, you had to wonder if an upset was possible – particularly in light of one of the Oval Office holder's best (inadvertent) efforts to undermine the joint bid.
A thinly veiled threat issued via Twitter to any FIFA member not supporting the United bid had to have helped galvanize support in Africa for Morocco.
Trump's alleged but widely reported use of the term "shithole countries" to describe Haiti, El Salvador and some parts of Africa at a White House meeting with US lawmakers earlier this year, couldn't have endeared the US bid to a good number of FIFA voters either.
And then you had to wonder about heightened tensions cause by Trump's ongoing plans to build a wall along the border with Mexico. Would this affect cooperation between those two partners on the organizing committee?
And could the Canadians really be so easy going as not to be aggrieved by the insults Trump hurled at their prime minister following last weekend's G7 in Quebec?
Clear heads prevail
Fortunately for the United bid – and the 2026 World Cup – the majority of delegates weren't swayed by their distaste of the current leader of the free world and made what was the only logical choice. An 80-game World Cup hosted by the United States (60 games) and shared by Mexico and Canada (10 each), will be easier to organize, and according to FIFA's estimates, bring in twice the revenue. And as we all know in the business of football, money talks.
You may not like Donald Trump but this time, in voting for the US-Mexican-Canadian bid, FIFA's members truly did make a decision for the good of the game.
And the transparent nature of this vote,by the entire FIFA membership, as opposed to the secretive way in which the then-FIFA Executive Committee handed the 2018 and 2022 tournaments to Russia and Qatar, means we won't have to spend the next eight years wondering what backroom deals were behind this decision – at least not as much as we did last time.Chuck Penfold