Moroccan World Cup bid escalates complaint about U.S territories inclusion in decision making process

Morocco's bid is competing with a rival joint bid by the U.S.A, Canada and Mexico Credit: PA

The Moroccan bid for the 2026 World Cup has escalated its complaint to FIFA about four overseas United States territories being allowed to vote on who should host the tournament.

The North African country is up against a joint bid from Canada, Mexico and the US, and the contest between them is now too close to call with just three weeks to go until the vote in Moscow on June 13.

This World Cup bidding process is the first FIFA has run since the notorious 2010 vote to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, respectively.

Those decisions were made by just 22 men on FIFA's executive committee but the 2026 choice will be made at the pre-Russia 2018 Congress by all of FIFA's 211 member associations, minus those with a conflict of interest.

That has always meant the four bidding nations could not vote but Morocco is adamant the exclusion should also extend to American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands, as American Samoans are considered US nationals and the inhabitants of the other three have even stronger ties as US citizens.

The Moroccan bid team first flagged this issue up to FIFA on April 26 and football's world governing body wrote back three weeks later to say it was up to the delegates from each member association to declare a conflict of interest themselves but none had done so.

The relevant clause in the bidding rules is 4.2 and it states: "In the event that a delegate of the FIFA Congress has a conflict of interest, such delegates shall not perform their duties in connection with, and the member association represented by such delegate shall decline to participate in, the voting process of the FIFA Congress for the decision to award the right for the hosting of the 2026 FIFA World Cup."

A day later, FIFA told Press Association Sport that this issue would be dealt with in Moscow, which suggested this row could continue up to the vote itself.

It is now understood that Morocco is unhappy with this stance and has written to FIFA again expressly asking for the four territories to be told they cannot vote.

In 2010 The FA failed in a bid to bring the 2018 to England Credit: PA

The North American bid, or United 2026 as it is better known, is understood to believe Morocco's complaint is a cynical attempt to meddle in the democratic process and rejects the idea that the four member associations cannot make an informed choice between the bids.

How FIFA resolves this row will be keenly watched by the Football Association as it considers making a bid for the 2030 World Cup.

England's failed bids for the 2006 and 2018 tournaments suggest it needs every vote it can count on but if American Samoa and co are ruled out for their conflict of interest in regards to the US, it is difficult to see how Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are not equally conflicted, with seven British overseas territories also being member associations of FIFA.