Will the 2026 FIFA World Cup be held in North America or Morocco?

On Wednesday morning, FIFA’s member associations will vote on the location of the 2026 tournament, just a day before the 2018 World Cup begins in Russia.

Only two bids have made it to the final vote, which will be held during the 68th FIFA Congress in Moscow: Morocco’s and a joint application from Canada, the United States and Mexico that has been dubbed the United Bid.

Both Morocco and the United Bid group have been lobbying hard in advance of Wednesday’s vote, which will see more than 200 FIFA member associations publicly cast ballots to determine the host.

From tiny Bhutan to soccer titans like Brazil, FIFA’s member associations represent nearly every nation on the planet. Each association’s vote, moreover, carries the same weight. Only the four countries vying to host the tournament won’t be allowed to participate.

By looking at criteria such as stadiums, accommodation options and organizing costs, FIFA’s recently released Bid Evaluation Report graded both the United Bid and Morocco, giving North America a commanding score of 4.0 out of 5.0 and the North African country a middling 2.7.

But although the United Bid dramatically outperformed Morocco’s in FIFA’s eyes, the vote could really go either way. A 2010 vote by FIFA’s executive committee awarded the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, despite arguably stronger bids from other potential hosts. That vote was also mired by accusations of bribery and corruption that have shaken the soccer world and sparked several criminal probes. In the wake of the controversy, FIFA opened up the voting process for the 2026 tournament.

According to The New York Times, 21 national member associations, including most African nations, have committed to Morocco’s bid while 28, representing most of the Americas, are publicly supporting the United Bid.

The North American bid includes a list of 23 potential host cities, comprising Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton, three cities in Mexico and 17 in the U.S. Ten matches have been proposed to take place in both Canada and Mexico, with the remaining 60 -- including the final and all semi-final games -- to take place in the U.S. If the United Bid is successful, FIFA will choose 16 of the 23 proposed cities to host games during the tournament.

According to the FIFA report, Morocco’s bid is marked by high risks relating to its stadiums, accommodation and transportation infrastructure. No aspect of the North American bid was deemed to be high risk. Morocco would also have to build nine new venues and renovate five more to host the tournament, while North America would only need to conduct renovations at six of its 23 proposed venues, including the Olympic Stadium in Montreal.

“The amount of new infrastructure required for the Morocco 2026 bid to become reality cannot be overstated,” the report said. “All 23 of the stadiums proposed within the United 2026 Bid Book have already been built and are fully operational.”

Morocco has projected that the World Cup would cost it US$1.87 billion while North America’s projected cost is US$2.16 billion. Despite the larger bill, North America is also anticipating revenue of US$14.3 billion if it hosts the tournament, compared to US$7.2 billion for Morocco.

The 2026 World Cup will also see the tournament expanded from 32 to 48 teams.

Held every four years, the 88-year-old tournament is the most important event in international soccer.

While the U.S. and Mexico have separately hosted the World Cup before, Morocco and Canada have not. Of the four nations, only Morocco and Mexico qualified to compete in this year’s tournament. Canada’s men’s national soccer team has not qualified for the World Cup since 1986.

Map of past World Cup host countries