It has been over a decade since the United States Soccer Federation initially decided that it would like to host a second men’s World Cup. And on Wednesday, its years of planning and campaigning will be either validated or crushed.
On Wednesday, the United States, along with Canada and Mexico, will either win the right to jointly host the 2026 World Cup; or they will be rejected in favor of a technically inferior bid, and made to wait at least 12 more years to bring soccer’s grandest event back to North America for the first time since 1994.
In other words, Wednesday is a pretty important day for American soccer. So how will it all go down? We’ve boiled the past year-plus of bidding, and a complicated FIFA document outlining the voting procedure, down into 22 FAQs.
1. Who is bidding?
There are only two bids: the joint North American bid – self-dubbed the United Bid, comprising the U.S., Canada and Mexico – and one from Morocco. Morocco entered the race on the eve of the deadline last summer.
2. Who votes?
Each of FIFA’s 211 members – minus the four bidding nations, so 207 – has one vote. FIFA’s members are the national soccer federations of 211 countries and territories, not their national governments.
In fact, FIFA specifically outlaws political interference by those national governments. Of course, there’s no way to completely snuff out political pressure from higher powers. But the vote is supposed to be in the hands of the heads of soccer federations. For the most part, it will be.
3. What time will the vote be?
The vote is effectively the last item on the agenda at the 68th FIFA Congress, which convenes at 9 a.m. local time in Moscow. FIFA Congresses are not short events, though. The vote is expected to take place around 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. ET, but that’s merely an educated guess.
4. How does the vote work?
FIFA has outlined the procedure in detail here. Each voting member will have three options on the first ballot: 1. The United Bid; 2. Morocco; 3. Neither. If one of the two bids wins a simple majority (50 percent plus one) of all votes cast – abstentions or Kosovo’s expected absence may lower the total below 207 – it is awarded the right to host the 2026 World Cup. Case closed.
5. Is there a chance neither bid wins? What happens then?
If there is no simple majority on the first ballot, there are two scenarios:
- If the amount of “neither” votes equals or betters the combined total of the Moroccan and North American bids, both bids lose. The bidding process reopens to all eligible FIFA members except for the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Morocco. That’s the doomsday scenario, but it’s highly unlikely.
- If the “neither” total is fewer than the combined total, the vote goes to a second ballot.
6. What changes on the second ballot?
Crucially, on the second ballot, there is no longer a “neither” option. Members may still abstain, but again, the simple majority is taken from “valid votes cast,” and abstentions don’t count toward that total. So a second ballot ensures that one of either Morocco or North America will get the 2026 tournament.
7. And in case of a tie?
The North American bid would win, because the tiebreaker is the evaluation score assigned to the two bids by FIFA’s inspection teams last month. (More on that later.)
8. So who’s going to win?
Nobody is certain. But the North American bid, as it has been to varying degrees all along, looks like a favorite. That’s according to those close to the United Bid. It’s according to a Moroccan newspaper, which cited a source close to its country’s bid who said its chances are “weak.” It’s also according to bookmakers, who put the North American bid at -400 to win Wednesday’s vote.
But the majority of FIFA members have not announced their intentions.
9. Who will vote for whom?
The North American bid has firm commitments from all 10 South American nations and seven Central American nations, plus, as of Tuesday morning, 10 others. It is expecting the backing of most Caribbean nations as well. It seemingly had the support of 12 members from Oceania, but upheaval within that confederation has thrown those votes up in the air.
The Moroccan bid, on the other hand, has a collection of 20 commitments from countries such as Russia, Qatar and France. It is expected to get most, but not all, of Africa’s votes. European and Asian votes will ultimately be decisive.
The New York Times has a great “2026 World Cup Vote Tracker” that has everything tabulated, with 27 more members “leaning” one way or the other, and 133 uncommitted at time of writing.
10. Will we know who voted for whom?
Yep. FIFA will release all the votes publicly after the process has concluded.
11. Why are we confident there won’t be a Russia-Qatar repeat?
That’s a reference to the infamous 2010 vote that awarded the 2018 tournament to Russia and 2022 to Qatar ahead of England and the U.S., respectively. It has been shrouded in controversy ever since, and dogged by allegations of widespread bribery and corruption.
But the vote is much different this time around. Eight years ago, it was in the hands of FIFA’s 24-member executive committee. One vote – and therefore one illicit gift or payment – had far more potential to swing the decision when it was being made by 24 people than it will a decision made by over 200.
12. Which bid is better?
By almost any objective measure, the North American bid is. FIFA’s inspectors gave it a score of 402 out of 500. Morocco got a 275. That’s a wide gap. The two bids, FIFA’s evaluation report stated, “represent two almost opposite ends of the spectrum.” Here’s the comparison:
13. What makes the North American bid better?
Existing infrastructure. Of the 23 stadiums proposed by the United Bid, 17 need no major renovations; the other six do, but are already built. Of Morocco’s 14, nine are merely mock-ups; they don’t currently exist. The other five require significant renovation.
Infrastructure also encapsulates hotels and travel accommodations. FIFA has labeled Morocco’s “stadiums,” “accommodations,” and “accommodations and transport” areas of “high risk” due to uncertainty and high construction costs. Concerns about Morocco’s preparedness are exacerbated by the fact that the 2026 World Cup will be the first to feature 48 teams – expanded from 32.
And in part because of the existing world-class infrastructure, the North American bid has promised to deliver a profit of $11 billion on $14.3 billion in revenue. Both numbers would blow away previous records, and roughly double Moroccan projections.
So the North American bid is both lucrative and safe, whereas Morocco’s comes with a lot of uncertainty.
14. What could make Morocco’s bid more appealing?
Two main things make the actual bid more appealing: First of all, Morocco’s time difference aligns with much of Europe, and more closely with Asia. Second, its smaller size could actually be a plus: It makes travel shorter and less grueling.
But the other looming reason for voters to side with Morocco? Anti-American sentiment – and some guy named Trump.
15. Trump. I’ve heard his name caught up in all this. Why?
More importantly, though, he’s the source of a significant amount of that anti-American sentiment. United Bid officials have claimed that having the support of the President of the United States is both necessary and helpful. But Trump, simply by being divisive and incompetent, has done more harm than good. He could be a tiebreaker in Morocco’s favor for some voters – especially those from nations Trump reportedly called “s—holes.”
He’s also a reason “human rights and labor standards” was one of three areas of “medium risk” assigned to the United Bid. “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 inspectors wrote, referencing Trump’s proposed travel ban.
The U.S. government has assured FIFA that its attempts to implement travel restrictions would not be an issue. And Trump, of course, will not be in office when the 2026 World Cup comes around. But FIFA is still slightly concerned.
16. How important is the bid to U.S. Soccer?
Massively important. So important that bid chiefs have been jetting around Europe and Asia – the focuses of the final stages of their campaign – almost incessantly for more than a month, trying to gain support. Recently-elected U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro is one of them, and as he told Yahoo Sports in late May, “I couldn’t have hit the ground running any faster. It’s been a marathon and a sprint all in one.” He has occasionally made presentations in three different countries in a single day.
Hosting the 2026 World Cup would be a boon for soccer in America. On top of all the excitement and fan interest, there’s this, as explained by former USSF president and bid chairman Sunil Gulati in a recent interview with Yahoo Sports:
Gulati insisted on submitting more candidate cities to FIFA than was customary or preferred by the governing body. Because that way he could barter for grassroots soccer investment.
“We want to be able to talk to cities and say, ‘Hey, you don’t have to build anything here, but let’s have an after-school program,’” Gulati says.
If the bid is successful, the cities hoping to host will compete by demonstrating their commitment to soccer at every level. How many season tickets does its NWSL team sell? How many fields have been built in the inner-cities lately? Is soccer part of the public school curriculum? That sort of thing.
“It’s building a soccer infrastructure,” Gulati says. “Not a building infrastructure.”
17. “Joint bid” … does that mean each country gets an equal share of games?
Nooooo. Far from it, in fact. The proposal calls for the U.S. to host 60 of the 80 games. Mexico and Canada would get 10 each, and none beyond the Round of 16.
18. So this is a U.S. bid, yeah?
Yeah, more or less. The United Bid tried to move away from that perception when it replaced Gulati with three co-chairs, the three presidents of the bidding federations. But this has been a U.S.-led operation from the start.
19. Would all three countries get automatic bids?
Yes, almost certainly. The idea is that all three would play on a mega-opening day.
20. Which cities would host games?
As mentioned above, seven will be cut from the current U.S. list of 17. That list is: Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Atlanta, Nashville, Orlando, Miami, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Dallas, Houston, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle.
The three Mexican cities would be Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey. The three Canadian cities would be Montreal, Toronto and Edmonton.
The proposed sites for the opening day headliner are Los Angeles, Mexico City and East Rutherford, N.J (Meadowlands). Atlanta, Boston, Dallas and Washington are semifinal candidates. The final would be held in Dallas, L.A. or the Meadowlands.
21. Hang on … there are some pretty big cities missing from that list.
Yep. Chicago and Vancouver, among others, pulled out of the running, citing unknowns in host city agreements and taxpayer risk.
22. How can I follow Wednesday’s vote?
BeIN Sports will have three hours of TV coverage starting at 6 a.m. ET. Fox Sports 1’s coverage will begin at 6:30 a.m. ET. And you can stream all the proceedings here.
We’ll have plenty of coverage here at FC Yahoo immediately afterward as well. Oh, and that New York Times vote tracker is going to come in handy.
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More soccer from Yahoo Sports:
• 2018 World Cup preview hub
• Sunil Gulati’s exclusive interview with Yahoo Sports
• 2018 World Cup contenders, tiered and ranked 1-32
• Carlos Cordeiro’s first 100 days