By Simon Evans and Mitch Phillips
MOSCOW (Reuters) - The 2026 World Cup will be held in the United States, Mexico and Canada after FIFA's Congress voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to support the joint bid over Morocco, despite reluctance in some countries to choose North America while President Donald Trump was in office and souring U.S. relations with its neighbors.
Trump, who has called for a wall to be built on the U.S. southern border with Mexico to stem illegal immigration and just days ago attacked Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on trade issues, praised the outcome as the result of "a great deal of hard work" on his Twitter feed.
Under Trump, relations between the United States, Canada and Mexico have plumbed new lows thanks to a dispute over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a $1.1 trillion trade pact that ties the three countries' economies together.
The North Americans pledged their tournament would generate an $11 billion profit, which would be a financial shot in the arm for soccer's world governing body FIFA which has been rocked by a corruption and bribery scandal in the last three years that ensnared top officials. Morocco, which has now failed in five bids to host the World Cup, said theirs would make $5 billion.
Although it will be the first World Cup to be hosted by three nations, the vast majority of matches will be held in the Unites States. As part of the bid, Trump pledged that those traveling to the United States for the tournament would not be subject to stringent visa restrictions.
Even if Trump were to be elected for a second four-year term in 2020 he would not be president when the World Cup kicks off in 2026.
Trump had earlier warned that countries voting against the North American bid would suffer consequences. The president has regularly assailed world leaders like Germany's Angela Merkel and France's Emmanuel Macron for "ripping" America off over trade.
On Twitter Trudeau said: "Good news this morning: The 2026 FIFA World Cup is coming to Canada, the US and Mexico. Congratulations to everyone who worked hard on this bid – it’s going to be a great tournament!"
The United States, Canada and Mexico were expected to qualify automatically for the tournament as has been the tradition for all World Cup host nations.
After the bid some observers expressed hope that the "NAFTA World Cup" would rebuild cooperation between the three countries. Trump will be gone from office when the tournament does take place.
"See? Always better when we work together," Roberta Jacobson, ambassador to Mexico until May, wrote on her Twitter feed.
The North American bid collected 134 votes to the 65 for Morocco. One Congress member voted for "neither bid."
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto tweeted “We did it!”
The 2026 finals will be the first expanded tournament featuring 48 teams, up from the current 32-team event which begins in Russia on Thursday.
Both bids were given a last chance to make their case with 15 minute presentations in front of the Congress at the Moscow Expocentre.
Of the 80 games, 60 will be held in the United States with 10 each in Canada and Mexico. The final will be played at MetLife (NYSE:MET) Stadium in New Jersey, home to the National Football League's New York Giants and New York Jets.
Ten of the eventual 16 chosen venues for the tournament will be in the United States with Mexico and Canada having three venues each.
The U.S previously hosted the World Cup in 1994 while Mexico staged it in 1970 and 1986. Canada has never staged a men's World Cup but it did hold the women's tournament in 2015.
A U.S. bid lost out in the vote eight years ago for the 2022 World Cup, which was handed to Qatar, and U.S Soccer Federation president Carlos Cordiero said it had been a long road to get the tournament back to the country.
"It was overwhelmingly emotional for everyone, not just for myself. A lot of very hard work and effort has gone into this campaign... You know, we ran and lost eight years ago. We appreciated that as much as you can do, you are not guaranteed victory," he said.
The Moroccan bid had expected a closer result and some of their backers felt they had been let down by potential allies.
"Of course, it’s really sad because we were counting on our friends, the countries that are close to us, that are long-time friends. And today they betrayed us," Moroccan Olympic champion runner Hicham El Guerrouj, who was active with the bid team, told Reuters.
The last time FIFA voted on World Cup hosting rights was in 2010, the decision then resting with the old executive committee which chose Russia to host the 2018 finals and Qatar for 2022.
Several members of that committee were later banned from the sport after they were caught up in the corruption scandal that engulfed world football's governing body in 2015.
Under FIFA's new system for choosing the host, all eligible football federations who attend Congress were given a vote.
The result has been a jet-setting campaign from both bids, whose team members have traveled the globe in an attempt to win over the worldwide electorate.
Cordeiro has said his bid would generate $14 billion in revenue and make an $11 billion profit for FIFA. The bid also expects record ticket and hospitality revenue.
The result is a boost for FIFA president Gianni Infantino who, while he maintained neutrality during the campaign, was known to be keen to see the first expanded Word Cup being held in North America.
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