MOSCOW --- With two days to go until the FIFA Congress votes on who will host the 2026 World Cup, the bid teams from Morocco and the United Bid of Canada, Mexico and the U.S. have made their pitches to the 33rd CONCACAF Ordinary Congress.
It has long been expected that the vast majority of CONCACAF member associations will line up behind the United Bid, and the Congress witnessed new declarations from Puerto Rico, Surinam and Guyana.
However, the governments of Caribbean countries including Antigua & Barbuda, St. Lucia and Dominica -- although not the football associations who will cast the votes -- have expressed support for Morocco.
Moncef Belkhayat, a former Minister of Youth and Sport, led the Morocco presentation and was joined by African ex-footballers including Cameroon's Joseph-Antoine Bell, Algeria's Lakhdar Belloumi, Morocco's Nouriddine Naybet and Nigeria's Daniel Amokachi.
Belkhayat listed the bid's strengths as geographic compactness, proximity to Europe and low cost for fans, with an average ticket price of $200. He also said a Morocco-hosted World Cup would rake in $5 billion profits for FIFA.
He acknowledged that he expected most CONCACAF countries to vote for the United Bid, but said during the presentation that he hoped to get "just a few votes" from the membership. He later told ESPN FC via text message that he had received confirmation from multiple Caribbean countries that they will vote for Morocco, but declined to name them.
The United Bid's presentation was led by Canada Soccer Association president Steven Reed, U.S. Soccer Federation chief administration officer Brian Remedi, and the FMF (Mexico federation) director of international affairs Inigo Riestra.
The bid's talking points of unity, certainty and opportunity were reiterated, as were the economic benefits of $14bn in revenues and $11bn in profits. The United Bid had previously stated that it would bring in more than $2bn in ticket revenue alone.
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Those numbers have drawn scepticism, given that they point to an average ticket price of over $400, but United Bid director and Canada Soccer general secretary Peter Montopoli did not back away from the financial predictions.
"Those projections might not be high enough," he told ESPN FC. "When we get to the day and age of 2026 it may very well be higher. I think there are some conservative numbers in there.
"Our projections are very strong. We believe in our united market of 500 million people and the chance for a number of visitors, whether it be 500,000 or one million through the course of a men's World Cup in 2026. We could certainly reach those numbers, and more potentially."
Privately, the United Bid feels it is gaining momentum among voters. However, the policies of U.S. President Donald Trump, which include a travel ban on mostly Arab countries, remain a talking point, and Reed said during the presentation that the merits of the bid, not the "politics of the moment," should be what voters focus on.
But there is a sense that FIFA's technical inspection -- which gave the United Bid an overall rating of 4.0 out of five while Morocco's checked in at 2.7 -- has given some nations the cover needed to justify voting for the United Bid.
Multiple United Bid sources indicated that a "clean sweep" of the Americas is possible. CONMEBOL has previously declared its support for the United Bid, as did CONCACAF's Central American countries. There is also a sense that the bid has made sufficient inroads in Africa to offset any possible defections in CONCACAF, with Namibia and Zimbabwe already having said publicly that they would vote for it.
Following declarations of support from Puerto Rico, Surinam and Guyana, CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani asked the delegates for a general show of support, and they responded with strong applause.
Asked whether he was concerned about Caribbean countries voting for Morocco, Montagliani said during a news conference after the presentation: "I think it was pretty obvious, the unanimity of the CONCACAF family in supporting the United Bid."