Fifa has voted on the eve of the 2018 World Cup to award the 2026 tournament to the United States, Canada and Mexico
The United States, Mexico and Canada will host a joint World Cup in 2026 after comfortably beating bid rivals Morocco in the vote for the first expanded 48-team tournament.
The so called United bid withstood unhelpful interventions from Donald Trump as well as criticism over potential eye-watering ticket prices for the tournament to win by 69 votes. The US will host 60 games, including the final possibly in New York, while Mexico and Canada will each have 10 games.
Thank you for the incredible privilege, Carlos Cordeiro, the president of US Soccer, said in his acceptance speech, Football today is the only victor.
The promise of 11bn (8.24bn) in profit for Fifa, double that offered by their rivals was enough to sway undecided voters to side with the United campaign, which received 134 votes to Moroccos 65.
A Fifa evaluation taskforce also judged the US-led bid to be vastly superior to their north African opposition on technical grounds, with a total of 23 stadiums already built or under construction at their disposal. Fifas general secretary, Fatma Samoura, pointedly reminded voters of this fact minutes before the ballot.
When the entire result of the vote flashed up on the big screen in the hall the first time a World Cup vote has been made public their were some surprises, notably that Russia, who had been expected to vote for Morocco, opted for the United bid as did a number of African nations.
The relief on the face of the Fifa president, Gianni Infantino, was obvious as he congratulated the winning bid team. Fifa clearly preferred the more lucrative and safer United bid. It was the first World Cup vote since 2010 when the Football Association suffered humiliation after Russia won the right to host the 2018 World Cup. Allegations of foul play immediately followed that vote with Qatar winning the 2022 tournament.
Infantino took the opportunity of his address to congress to claim the Fifa landscape has drastically changed under his leadership, listing a number of reforms since taking over from Sepp Blatter. It was clinically dead when I took over two years ago, he said, now it is alive. There are no longer additional costs in the balance sheet.
Proceedings at congress, held at Moscows expo-centre on the outskirts of the city centre, came to an unexpected halt halfway through as Infantino announced the arrival of Vladimir Putin. Most of the hall rose to their feet to greet the arrival of the Russian president but the FA delegation of the chief executive, Martin Glenn, and chairman, Greg Clarke, deliberately remained seated, aware of mounting political tensions between the two countries.
Putin offered little alternative to David Gill, the English Fifa vice-president, but to shake hands as he made his way along the line of those on the stage.
I didnt feel ambushed at all, its polite, Gill said, Hes the president of the country. Were here for the whole duration, so, if you feel like that, then you shouldnt be coming. He spoke pretty well, I thought. Its just gestures for me. It doesnt mean much, I dont think. Frankly, you may not agree and all that, but you show courtesy, I think.
Eight years ago when his country won the right to host the 2018 World Cup in Zurich, Putin spoke mainly in English as he thanked the audience from the bottom of my heart. He struck a different, more serious tone this time round though he was effusive in his praise for Infantino, calling the Swiss a good front man and a true fighter. Infantino responded in kind, thanking Putin on behalf of the entire world of football from the bottom of our heart a big thank you for your engagement, for your passion, for really making us feel part of the same team.