What: FIFA has reviewed (markedly different) bids from Morocco and North America for the 2026 World Cup.
Why it matters: Initial signs point towards the United 2026 bid, and as that gains traction, marketers can plan for increased interest here.

Will the combined bid for North America for the 2026 World Cup become reality? FIFA looks like they are moving closer to that decision.

FIFA last week reviewed bid reports from the two main groups seeking to host the 2026 World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup)—Morocco and a United bid from the U.S.-Canada-Mexico—and published a 224-page report that states, “The Morocco 2026 bid and United 2026 bid represent almost two opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to the nature of their bids.”

The joint bid would create a forecasted US $14.3 billion in revenue for FIFA, the Morocco bid forecasted US $7.2 billion for what would be the first 48-nation event in FIFA World Cup history.

For U.S. brands heavily invested in soccer, like Coca-Cola, the awarding of the bid would be a positive shot after getting a setback with the U.S. not qualifying for this year’s World Cup in Russia.

United 2026 (@united2026 ‏) said that of the 23 potential stadiums that might be used for matches, 17 currently exist and need no major renovation for the World Cup, and the remaining six are built but are due for renovation.

“The United 2026 bid has a clear lead in this area, with all major infrastructure already in place, allowing FIFA to focus on a number of exciting initiatives relating to sports science, fan engagement, multi-media integration and other new forms of digitalization,” according to the FIFA committee.

“The amount of new infrastructure required for the Morocco 2026 bid to become a reality cannot be overstated.” There were 20 categories, from revenue and marketing to legalities, transportation, security, and stadiums discussed.

The United 2026 bid had no “High” risk tags and just three deemed as “Medium”: Organizing costs, legal and government support and human rights and labor standard. The United 2026 bid had “Low” risks in the 17 other categories.

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“The Morocco 2026 bid is well presented and strong in terms of government commitment, but would need to newly build most of its tournament-related and wider infrastructure,” according to the report. “The United 2026 bid, on the other hand, has promising levels of infrastructure already in place and fully operational.”

“While single bids offer some advantages in terms of having just one host member association and one host country government, it should be noted that FIFA anticipated the possibility of joint bids —which offer the advantage of scale— when it decided to expand the format of the tournament to include 48 teams.”

Of the 80 matches to be played in the expanded tournament, under the United bid, 10 would be held in Canada, 10 in Mexico and 60 across the U.S.

This comes right after several soccer officials attending Leaders Week in N.Y. expressed great concern about the United bid, because of the anti-immigration policy currently being pushed by the Trump White House. “The World Cup has to be a global event where people from all countries are welcomed, and the current administration doesn’t see that,” one European soccer official said. “Unless something changes that’s going to be an issue for some countries when the vote comes around.”

Others were quick to point out that the current administration, even with a reelection, would not be in place in 2026, but the anti-immigration issue can still be a factor for the voters now. “It is very unhealthy, especially given the makeup of those of influence in FIFA, we hope that is not the case.”

For U.S. brands heavily invested in soccer, like Coca-Cola, the awarding of the bid would be a positive shot after getting a setback with the U.S. not qualifying for this year’s World Cup in Russia. It would also be a positive step forward for the clubs who have now opened offices in the US and are looking to engage even deeper in soccer in the U.S. Paris St. Germain recently became the seventh club to open an office in the U.S. looking to expand their brand into the U.S. business community. The bid win would also be a hugely positive step forward for Soccer United marketing and all those engaged in the business in the U.S. and Mexico, which officials still see as the fastest growing soccer market in the world, on par with China.

There are still many questions to be answered until the bid is awarded in the coming weeks, however for now, FIFA appears to be looking west for their next news, and that’s great news for all involved in the business.

cover image: Wikimedia Commons/Shine 2010

What: Telemundo may have benefited from the U.S. not qualifying for FIFA World Cup, reportedly selling 90% of its inventory to date.
Why it matters: At least some of those sales are from companies that might have gone with Fox Sports’ English-language broadcasts.

Most of the talk in the U.S. about FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCuphas been the absence of the American team from the contest for the first time since 1986. And while that may be working to the detriment of U.S. English language rightsholder FOX Sports (@FOXSports) it may be having the opposite effect for Telemundo (@Telemundo), which will broadcast the games in Spanish. With power players like Coca-Cola (presenting postgame show sponsor), Sprint (halftime) and Volkswagen (primetime show presenting sponsor) on board, the broadcaster has announced a near sellout of its ad inventory.

The international soccer business is indeed booming, and FIFA is leveraging that for everything it’s worth—and more. In an attempt to enliven the North American bid, a combined effort by the U.S., Mexico and Canada, for the 2026 tournament, with selection looming next month, the N.Y. Times this week reported that organizers have offered visas to all visitors attending the games, regardless of where they are coming from, as well as a minimum US $11 billion profit for the sport’s international governing body, which has been plagued with corruption for decades. How that fits into the current political climate and U.S. laws is still to be determined.

With media rights reported at US $425 million for Fox and US $600 million for Telemundo, they’ll need every bit of ad sales to help make up what has been projected as tens of millions lost when the U.S. didn’t qualify.

It follows that a significant portion of that US $11 billion would flow from marketers who would be eager to capture the fans of many nationalities already in the three North American countries as well as those who would otherwise have only a passing interest in the tournament. With the 2026 World Cup expanding to 48 teams and 80 matches, there would be more inventory for all types of sponsorship, from stadium signage to broadcasts to special events.

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But what if Morocco, the other bidder for 2026, gets the games? At 5 hours ahead of Eastern Time (8 hours ahead of Pacific), broadcasters would face less of a challenge than this summer in Russia (between 7-9 hours ahead of ET) and Qatar (7 hours) in 2022, but clearly having the games in this hemisphere would make broadcasts more palatable and sponsor activations logistically simpler and more targeted to North American consumers.

All is not lost for FOX in its World Cup coverage starting next month, as interest in the event is still high among the growing soccer fan base as well as first- and second-generation Americans with roots in Russia, France, Brazil, Germany, England, Poland, Japan and other countries rooting on their native national squads among the 32 qualifiers. 23andMe (@23andMe), a DNA testing site, is an official Fox World Cup partner, and has a campaign tying in fans’ ancestry with teams they can support. With media rights reported at $425 million for Fox and $600 million for Telemundo, they’ll need every bit of ad sales to help make up what has been projected as tens of millions lost when the U.S. didn’t qualify.

Cover Image: FIFA World Cup 2014 (credit: Danilo Borges/Portal da Copa)

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