The bid to bring soccer’s World Cup back to North America in 2026 was hatched in a Vancouver restaurant, announced in a New York City skyscraper and scrutinized by FIFA inspectors inside Mexico City’s cavernous Azteca stadium.
It was sold in countless other cities — Jakarta, Indonesia, and Bangkok; Copenhagen, Denmark, and Lisbon, Portugal; Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, and Johannesburg — by officials from the United States, Mexico and Canada soccer federations who had teamed up in an unprecedented effort to share the world’s most-watched sporting event.
And on Wednesday in Moscow, the campaign finally ended when voters — persuaded by promises of record crowds, record revenues and, perhaps crucially, a record $11 billion in profit for FIFA, world soccer’s governing body — awarded the hosting rights to the 2026 World Cup to a combined bid from the United States, Mexico and Canada. The three countries will bring the tournament to North America for the first time since 1994, with the majority of the matches, including the final, being held in the United States.
The North American bid routed its only challenger, Morocco, by a vote of 134-65, after which members of the winning delegation leapt out of their seats to embrace one another, pump their fists and celebrate the end of a frenzied few weeks of final lobbying.
Carlos Cordeiro, the president of U.S. Soccer, wiped away tears before making a short speech in which, with his voice trembling, he thanked FIFA’s membership for “the incredible privilege” of hosting the World Cup.
“It was a very emotional moment for everyone,” Cordeiro said later, recalling the devastation he felt in 2010 when the United States failed to secure the right to stage the 2022 World Cup, losing to Qatar in a much-criticized voting process.
The 2026 tournament will be one of firsts. It will be the first time the World Cup is hosted by three countries, the first time it has a 48-team format (up from 32 teams), and Wednesday’s vote was the first of its kind to be decided by FIFA’s entire membership. Of the tournament’s 80 matches, 10 will be in Canada, 10 in Mexico and 60 in the United States.
The last time the men’s World Cup was held in North America was when the United States hosted it in 1994.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times