By Brian Homewood
ZURICH (Reuters) – FIFA held a last-minute meeting on Wednesday with the two candidates bidding to host the 2026 World Cup ahead of the publication of a report which could disqualify a bid rated not up to scratch.
A joint United States, Canada and Mexico bid is being challenged by underdogs Morocco for the right to stage the 48-team tournament with the hosts to be decided by the FIFA Congress in Moscow on June 13.
A five-man FIFA task force has inspected both bids and its key evaluation report is expected to be published any time from Friday onwards.
Under new bidding rules, the task force has the power to disqualify a bid if it does not meet minimum technical standards, especially with regard to stadiums.
“It was a very constructive meeting, a very positive meeting,” Hicham El Amrani, the CEO of the Morocco bid, told Reuters. “We gave them the extra information they were looking for and we look forward to the publication of the report.”
World soccer’s governing body FIFA and the North American bid did not comment on the meeting.
The task force will award each bid a score ranging from zero to five on six different aspects of their bid: stadiums, team facilities, accommodation, transport, telecommunications and locations for events and fan festivals.
A bid must achieve a score of at least two out of five in the categories for stadiums, team facilities and transport/accommodation to qualify for the Congress vote, as well as an overall score of at least two.
FIFA says the score for transport and accommodation is calculated on a combined basis.
The system was introduced after criticism during previous World Cup hosting campaigns that voters overlooked the technical qualities of respective bids and based their choices on an exchange of political and personal favours.
For the same reason, the franchise was extended to the FIFA Congress — where each of FIFA’s member associations each hold one vote — instead of being restricted to the now extinct executive committee.
Even so, outside influences continue to affect the process, as seen when U.S. President Donald Trump made clear in a Tweet that he expected countries that receive American economic and other forms of support to deliver votes for his nation’s bid.
(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Ken Ferris)