Morocco Seeks to Defeat U.S. With Fifth Soccer World Cup Bid

(Bloomberg) -- It has campaigned unsuccessfully four times before and is the sole challenger to a formidable joint bid by the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Yet Morocco still believes it has a shot at hosting the 2026 soccer World Cup.

At the campaign’s launch in Casablanca on Tuesday, Moroccan officials argued the country was located in a more convenient timezone for the majority of fans, while pledging not to exploit uncertainty over visa rules that has cast a shadow over the North American bid.

“In 100 years since the World Cup started, Africa hosted the competition only once. This cannot go on,” said bid chairman Moulay Hafid Elalamy, adding that he was confident Africa’s 53 football associations would back him. If Morocco wins, 80 percent of the global audience “will not have to wake up at 3 a.m. to watch a soccer game,” he said.

South Africa became the first country on the continent to stage the World Cup in 2010. Morocco will need to win the votes of 104 out of 207 international football associations in a ballot on June 13 to host the tournament, the awarding of which has been plagued by corruption scandals in recent years.

With an expanded 48 teams set to play in 2026 finals, up from 32 now, Morocco would need to build eight new stadiums and upgrade six existing ones to FIFA requirements.

Some observers believe Morocco’s chances could be buoyed by problems its rival might face in finally securing visa-exemption guarantees for both fans and people working on the tournament.

Government guarantees must be obtained by the March 16 deadline if the tri-nation bid is to be accepted by soccer’s global governing body, FIFA. President Donald Trump, whose attempt to bar entry to the U.S. by citizens of a group of majority-Muslim nations and other controversial immigration policies have roiled American politics for a year, would need to sign off on such exemptions.

“We will not be playing the Trump card,” Hisham El-Amrani, chief executive of the Moroccan campaign, said in an interview on the sidelines of the launch. “We are confident in the assets of our bid and we wish our opponents the best of luck in their campaign.”

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