By Michael Lewis
One thing I have learned from covering FIFA all these years is what looks good on paper, doesn’t always translate into what’s fair or what is reality.
The most recent example that comes to mind is was the sweepstakes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which was decided in 2010.
According to the FIFA evaluators, the United States’ bid was considered low risk. I remember looking at the reports in the Major League Soccer office and saw many color greens associated with grades for the USA.
In contrast, Qatar was low risk in many categories and I believe that was in yellow or orange, if my memory is correct. I wondered how anyone could considered Qatar’s bid seriously given the questionable marks about the infrastructure and climate, among other potential problems.
Ha, stupid, me.
We all know what happened — Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup — and many federation presidents and FIFA officials paid for it in many ways.
Which brings us to the bidding process for the 2026 World Cup.
The United Bid of Mexico, Canada and the U.S. outscored Morocco’s overall total by a country mile (sorry for the bad pun there, folks.
The three-country bid totaled 402.8 out of a possible 500, whereas Morocco’s bid received 274.9, according to the FIFA Bid Evaluation report, which was released Friday.
Both bids were evaluated on stadiums, team and referee facilities, accommodation, transport, International Broadcast Center, FIFA Fan Fest, Operating costs, media and marketing and ticketing and hospitality.
Morocco’s best grades were for media and marketing (4.6 out of 5). It’s lowest were for transport (2.1) and stadiums (2.3)
The United Bid’s highest grades came in ticketing and hospitality (5.0) and media and marketing (4.9). Its lowest scores were organizing costs (2.0), FIFA Fan Fest (3.6) and team and referee facilities (3.7). Those latter two ratings beat out Morocco in the same categories.
So, what did the FIFA evaluators say about the bids?
“The Morocco 2026 bid and United 2026 bid represent two almost opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to the nature of their bids,” the report said.
“The Morocco 2026 is well presented and strong in terms of government commitment but would need to newly build most of its tournament-related and wider infrastructure. The United 2026 bid, on the other hands, has promising levels of infrastructure already in place and fully operational.”
According to the report, the United 2026 bid predicted it would bring in revenue of 14.3 billion, compared to $7.2 billion from Morocco.
While it looks like the United Bid would win in a landslide, I wouldn’t put any credence to those numbers given what transpired in Zurich, Switzerland in December 2010. The U.S. bid looked so good, but Qatar was awarded the 2022 competition.
You don’t know about FIFA, you just don’t know.
FIFA is scheduled meet in Moscow on June 13, on the eve of the World Cup.
FIFA doesn’t necessarily have to approve any of the bids, which will make the gathering even more intriguing and perhaps even more confounding.
To look at both bid evaluations, visit: