MOSCOW — Seattle is one step closer to hosting a 2026 FIFA World Cup game after the United States – in a three-way bid with Mexico and Canada – was granted staging rights to host the tournament during a vote here on Wednesday.
The “United” bid, that will see 60 of the tournament’s games held in the U.S., with Canada and Mexico getting 10 each, beat out the underdog campaign of Morocco to bring soccer’s biggest show back to American soil.
The Emerald City was one of 23 host city finalists announced in March and one of the nine cities mentioned in the FIFA presentation.
TruMedia soccer analyst Paul Carr said Seattle is "on the bubble" for selection.
"I think Seattle has an advantage on some of those other cities that it's vying with, just based on recent soccer history," said Carr, who has covered three World Cups as ESPN's lead soccer researcher. "I think its location – it's really the only northwest city – I think that's a good thing."
The U.S. previously hosted in 1994 and the potential for a highly lucrative tournament, plus the existing stadiums and infrastructure, likely played a major role in swaying voters.
With the breakdown of voting results made public, the United bid claimed 134 votes, with 64 giving their support to Morocco and one country voting for neither bid.
The other chosen U.S. cities are Arlington, Texas; Atlanta; Baltimore; Cincinnati; Denver; East Rutherford, New Jersey; Foxborough, Massachusetts; Houston; Inglewood or Pasadena, California; Kansas City, Missouri; Landover, Maryland; Miami; Nashville, Tennessee; Orlando, Florida; Philadelphia; Santa Clara, California; and Seattle.
The Canadian cities are Edmonton, Alberta; Montreal; and Toronto; and Mexico's are Guadalajara; Mexico City; and Monterrey.
After the U.S. men's national team missed out on qualifying for this summer’s tournament, which kicks off at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium on Thursday, the news of the successful bid was a boost to frustrated American soccer fans.
Following allegations of corruption regarding the 2018 and 2022 voting process back in 2010, more than 200 member nations took part in the decision this time around, instead of a 24-person committee.
While Morocco, as expected, obtained strong support in Africa, the United bid’s power base in Central and South America, plus some welcome backing from parts of Europe and Asia, made the difference.
There had been concerns that political factors, such as the United States’ waning popularity overseas and what was perceived as an interfering tweet about the bid from President Donald Trump, would count against it.
However, the strong marks the United bid received from FIFA evaluators boosted its prospects. It is expected that both semifinals and the final will all be held in U.S. venues.
Indeed, Trump's behind-the-scenes actions may even have helped sway some key votes. The White House provided U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro with three separate letters that Cordeiro showed to delegates, containing guarantees from Trump that any immigration policies relating to predominantly Muslim countries would impose no restriction affecting the tournament.
Both bids were permitted 15 minutes to make a presentation to the FIFA members immediately before the vote. The United Bid featured a youth team player from each of the three nations, beginning with a moving tale by 17-year-old Canadian Alphonso Davies, the current Major League Soccer player of the week, about how his family had been welcomed after fleeing civil war in Africa.
The three federation chiefs also spoke, with Cordeiro strongly emphasizing the profitability of a North American tournament, promising $11 billion in revenues.
Morocco's presentation took some not-so-subtle shots at the U.S., highlighting the fact that guns are banned in Morocco and stating that during the 1994 World Cup even world-renowned soccer stars were unknown in America.
It was a solid performance by Morocco, which entered bidding late and was always going to be up against the odds. In the end it wasn't enough, and Americans fans can look forward to the return of soccer's greatest event in what can only be seen as a massive boost for the domestic game.