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Morocco is an intriguing option to host World Cup due to safety

In the backdrop of two controversial World Cup selections (Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022), the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) will decide where the 2026 World Cup will take place this summer.

There are two current contenders for hosting the tournament, a contingent of the United States, Canada and Mexico (with most games to be played in the U.S.), and the underdog in the equation, Morocco. As of now, the former remains the favorite to host the event, but will there be an upset the day before the World Cup starts? There seem to be a multitude of reasons for either party to be the eventual host.

For the U.S. and its partners there are obvious reasons as to why it remains the current favorite to host the World Cup. The U.S. has hosted before (1994), and the three countries have plenty of modern stadiums that are able to host comfortable soccer matches with modern amenities. Unlike most countries, the contingent is reliable at hosting nationwide events with people from all over the world. The diversity and welcoming nature of America can be put on full display (I’ll come back to this later). Furthermore, with all the money involved in terms of TV deals and sponsorships, U.S. companies would most certainly benefit from the world’s premier soccer tournament, which will be the first to host 48 teams. On paper, and in terms of actual, physical locations, the U.S. and its partners appear to be a shoe-in.

So how does Morocco have a chance? The Kingdom of Morocco presents a peculiar option for the World Cup, but most certainly has made a convincing case for its candidacy. First, its location makes it a great option to host a 48-team World Cup, especially since a large portion of those teams will be coming from Europe and Africa. Additionally, its smaller size makes travel across the country much easier as compared to the United States, where games will be played along its coastlines, in Mexico and in Canada. Another reason Morocco has put forth is its relative safety, compared to the U.S. and Mexico. Morocco has a very low crime rate, particularly in terms of gun violence. The debate around gun violence has swirled in recent years in the U.S., and Mexico is considered one of the deadliest countries in the world, with one of the highest death rates on the planet. Morocco has also made a huge commitment to constructing state-of-the-art stadiums and hotel facilities, as it does not currently have enough to host a World Cup of this magnitude. The government has pledged $15.8 billion to this effort, a massive amount that would most certainly ensure a great atmosphere for a World Cup.

Why is the U.S. and its contingent not a shoe-in for hosting the tournament anymore? As Morocco has put forth, the high level of gun violence in the U.S. and Mexico, along with the influx of thousands of athletes and fans from across the globe could create a tense situation. In the past, the U.S. has successfully hosted international tournaments, however, as have Mexico and Canada. Additionally, as FIFA has been shrouded in controversy, the U.S. has been the main party attempting to clean it up. Raids at FIFA headquarters in Switzerland and indictments of officials may have a negative impact on the U.S.’ image. It has been seen as overstepping its boundaries (nothing new for the U.S.) in a sport that it has not traditionally been all that good at, unfortunately.

Speaking of image, President Trump may be the largest negative factor going against the U.S. and its chances at hosting the tournament. His anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and “shithole country” comments most certainly haven’t improved the U.S.’ image worldwide. For the upcoming World Cup and moving forward, all countries will have a single vote to choose who they believe should host the tournament, minus the U.S., Mexico, Canada and Morocco. 53 African countries will have a say, as well as the numerous Muslim majority countries in the Middle East and Asia. Will these countries use the opportunity to reject Trump and his divisive language? That remains to be seen. However, the U.S. losing the World Cup on Russian soil, in the midst of the Russian investigation, would be a rough pill to swallow.

Morocco, however, has its faults in terms of its case to host the tournament as well. To start with, the stadiums that would host the matches are theoretical, as no foundations have been laid yet. As was seen during the last World Cup in Brazil, hastily constructed stadiums aren’t always of the best quality and could be an issue in the country’s case. Interestingly, the country has stated it will dismantle the stadiums in an environmentally friendly manner after the tournament. This current bid for the World Cup also isn’t Morocco’s first attempt at doing so. In fact, this is the country’s fourth attempt. However, its two prior bids in 1998 and 2010 were draped in controversy, bribery and corruption, which certainly don’t help its chances (Montague 2018). Moroccan officials have vehemently denied any corrupt involvement in the past and have also stated that no one working on the current bid was a part of the previous bids that faced scrutiny. The U.S.’s continued investigation may bring more to light in the upcoming months and years, but as of now, Morocco continues to protest its innocence.

It will be interesting to see how the world votes on who will receive the World Cup this summer. The U.S., who did not even qualify for this summer’s World Cup, or Morocco, the small kingdom in Northwest Africa that has emerged as a growing underdog (and did qualify for Russia 2018), are the two contenders standing. The many political issues impacting the world today are expected to play a role in how the 200+ counties vote the day before this year’s tournament kicks off. From the Russian investigation to gun violence, many factors will influence the voters and their choices. As of now, the U.S. and its partners arguably remain the favorites. However, their perceived certainty at hosting the tournament has eroded in recent months. Either way, I, like billions of people across the globe, will be itching to see the most popular sport in the world on full display.

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