At first glance, this week’s vote to determine the host of the 2026 World Cup very much looks like a classic David and Goliath battle.
On one side, there is the “United Bid” of the United States, Canada and Mexico. The three North American nations already boast much of the necessary infrastructure - state-of-the-art stadiums, mass media, tourist capacity. And the tournament, if held in the American market, would almost certainly be a record-setting cash cow.
On the other side, Morocco, a tiny host nation compared to the combined North American countries. Fifa’s report on the bids cautioned, “The amount of new infrastructure required for the Morocco 2026 bid to become reality cannot be overstated.”
The United Bid has both the glitter and the substance. It makes sense that it has been the favorite from the beginning. But this vote is more than that.
It’s a choice between sportsmanship and rivalry, between inclusivity and division, between uplifting those in need and making the already rich richer. It’s a choice about the future of Fifa, an organisation trying to shed a reputation of overwhelming and constant corruption. And unavoidably, it’s a choice between accepting or rejecting Donald Trump’s vision of the world.
Trump, in typical fashion, made himself an ignominious part of the process when he brought his no-holds-barred approach to selling the United Bid earlier this year. Twice in the span of a week, he threatened retribution against countries that don’t vote for the US-led bid.
Fifa regulations strictly prohibit political interference with the voting process, but the body’s tepid response to Trump’s threats was impossible for the rest of the world to miss. What worse way for Fifa to try to rehabilitate its image than to have the unpredictable leader of the “free world” sends his minions to note down nationalities of delegates who voted in favour of the rival bid? And that’s not the only way Trump’s politics should undermine the United Bid.
A hugely important consideration for any World Cup is the issuance of visas and ease of travel for participants and supporters of the competing nations. Thanks to Trump’s incendiary and indiscriminate anti-Muslim visa policies, a successful North American bid will leave tens of thousands of soccer fans sleepless. Yes, Trump will be out of office, but who is to say what the U.S. policies on travel from various majority-Muslim countries will be in 2026? Even fans with valid visas in hand could run the risk of being denied entry at U.S. airports.
The United States that the world once admired and dreamed of visiting has changed dramatically in the course of the 16 months Trump has spent so far as president. That American dream, that freedom fighter, that champion of human rights and democracy has been buried; and every day Trump does something to spit on his tombstone.
If the world rewards the United States of President Donald Trump with the World Cup, it might as well give him a Nobel Peace Prize, or let Steve Bannon sit at the helm of the United Nations.
Morocco, meanwhile, is the most-visited country in Africa and hosts more than 10 million international tourists each year. It has some of the world’s most relaxed visa regulations and fully deserves its reputation as a hospitable and open nation to outside visitors. Since 2014, Morocco has embarked on a unique initiative in which it has granted residency permits to tens of thousands of undocumented migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
Far from being a “shithole,” Morocco is a remarkably beautiful country. It’s best positioned geographically to allow the 2026 tournament and advertisers to capture the largest possible audience, and it has the best infrastructure on the continent, including South Africa, which hosted the World Cup in 2010.
The World Cup will help Morocco fast-track its development, create jobs for Moroccans and foreign residents, and attract more tourists and foreign investors. The American bid, meanwhile, will primarily create value for TV networks, apparel companies and other major sponsors in a market already saturated with the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB.
After the embarrassing scandals of recent years, voting for Morocco would be a good place to start for Fifa members. It would allow them to tell the organisation’s bosses that it’s high time to change tack and part ways with the organisation’s dirty past. Fifa can capitalise on the opportunity to help provide jobs, investment and opportunity in a continent that is bursting with opportunity and growth. It is a no-brainer even from a business perspective.
The same question is being asked by many football fans around the world today: Do we want a more inclusive planet, a level playing pitch with the same rules applying for everyone? This is the Fifa member nations’ opportunity to state their intent for the world’s game that we all love so much.
And one last thing: What could be more American than voting for the underdog?
Morocco winning the right to host the Fifa World Cup in 2026 would be the most emblematic signal that the American spirit is back, at least in world football.
Abdelmalek Alaoui is the founder and CEO of the Guepard Group and the CEO of HuffPost Maroc