KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Morocco and the United States – plus Canada and Mexico – have passed the last hurdle on the way to a decisive vote in FIFA Congress for host rights to the 2026 World Cup.

The first hurdle was gaining the approval of a five-man evaluation task force and the second, now accomplished, was obtained the approval of the world federation’s council which met in Moscow ahead of Wednesday’s annual congress.

Morocco had been the more worried about the process, fearing that FIFA president Gianni Infantino privately preferred the financial prospects of a tournament across the length and breadth of central and north America rather than one in the north-west corner of Africa.

The prize at the end of the world football rainbow

A FIFA statement said: “On Wednesday, 13 June, the FIFA Congress will determine whether to award the right to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup to one of the two candidates.

“In the event that the 68th FIFA Congress decides not to choose either of the candidates, FIFA will then launch a new procedure by inviting all member associations – except the four that are taking part in the current process – to submit a bid to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup.”

Confederation presentations

Leaders of both bids are spending the days and hours before congress seeking to win over voters from the 200-plus delegations as well as presenting formally to several of the continental confederations. South America’s CONMEBOL made no secret of its own block preference, hearing from United 2o26 but refusing the Moroccans even the courtesy of listening to them.

Two other notable issues resolved by FIFA Council concerned the expansion of the World Cup to 48 teams in Qatar in 2022 and the calculations of the monthly FIFA World Ranking.

Congress had been scheduled to discuss setting up a study group to consider rushing the World Cup expansion four years ahead of its scheduled introduction in 2026. However there was concern among some delegates about undue haste which had been proposed earlier this year by the South American confederation.

The issue will now be removed from the congress agenda while talks are undertaken with the Qatar organisers for whom expansion at such short notice would raise a number of complex and expensive logistical issues.

Infantino said later: “The FIFA administration will discuss with the hosts and then we will see. For the moment, what there is is a World Cup with 32 teams.”

As for the world ranking, a revision of the system was approved by council to iron out flaws which have arisen over possible manipulations of the comparative statistics.

Infantino said: “We agreed on changing the way this is calculated, we want to make it more logical. A new formula will be introduced after the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

“We think the new system will be more balanced. It gives, I think, some more weight to official matches and so on but also takes away some of these imbalances we had before. I hope it will be a little less subject to criticism.”

Council also formally approved the start of the electoral process for the presidency which is scheduled to be undertaken at next year’s congress in Zurich. Infantino is expected to seek re-election, three years after he succeeded the banned Sepp Blatter.

FIFA statement:

As it gears up for the opening match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup™, Moscow hosted meeting number 7 of the FIFA Council this Sunday, 10 June. FIFA’s strategic body decided on a number of important competition matters, chief of which was another key step in the bidding process for the 2026 FIFA World Cup™.

Following the publication of the Bid Evaluation Report by the 2026 Bid Evaluation Task Force, the FIFA Council designated the two bids – the one jointly submitted by the Canadian Soccer Association, the Mexican Football Association and the United States Soccer Federation, as well as the one submitted by the Moroccan Football Association – to be voted on by the 68th FIFA Congress.

On Wednesday, 13 June, the FIFA Congress will determine whether to award the right to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup to one of the two candidates. In the event that the 68th FIFA Congress decides not to choose either of the candidates, FIFA will then launch a new procedure by inviting all member associations – except the four that are taking part in the current process – to submit a bid to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup. More details on Wednesday’s procedure are available here.

The FIFA Council also took some other significant decisions, including:

  • New formula for the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking

Following over two years of reviews and studies of different alternatives and a comprehensive consultation process with all confederations, the FIFA administration put forward to the FIFA Council an overhauled formula to calculate the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking – a system that was today approved and will thus be inaugurated with the first official ranking following the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™.

Under the guiding principles of making the formula more intuitive and accurate; eliminating the potential for ranking manipulation; and providing equal opportunities to ascend for all teams, a group of sports specialists and statisticians developed a formula based on the Elo method of calculation. This formula works not by averaging points for each individual match, but by adding them to or subtracting them from a team’s existing points total – a calculation in which weights are determined by the relative strength of the two opponents and the importance of each match. This means that the annual average point calculation, which is currently used in the World Ranking formula, will no longer be factored.

Furthermore, the approved formula allows for a smooth transition from the current ranking, without displacement of teams in the existing ranking table. A complete explanation of the new system is available here.

  • Proposal submitted by the CONMEBOL member associations to the 68th FIFA Congress

The FIFA Council unanimously agreed that the matter raised by the member associations of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela – i.e. the proposal of a feasibility study to increase the number of teams from 32 to 48 in the 2022 FIFA World Cup™ – will first be discussed by FIFA with the host country, Qatar, and therefore it would be premature to put it forward to the FIFA Congress.

  • Electoral process for the position of FIFA President

In accordance with article 45 of the FIFA Governance Regulations, the FIFA Council formally called for the FIFA presidential election, which is scheduled to take place during the 69th FIFA Congress in Paris on 5 June 2019. FIFA’s strategic body ratified the official electoral period – from the 68th FIFA Congress to election day – and the milestones of the electoral calendar:

  • 10 June 2018: Call for election
  • 13 June 2018: Start of electoral period
  • 5 February 2019: Deadline for submission of candidatures for the office of FIFA President by FIFA member associations
  • 5 May 2019: Deadline for notifying the FIFA member associations of the names of the proposed and admitted candidates
  • 5 June 2019: FIFA presidential election at the 69th FIFA Congress
  • Amendments to the FIFA Code of Ethics

Following an express request from the chairpersons of the investigatory and adjudicatory chambers of the Ethics Committee, the current FIFA Code of Ethics – issued in 2012 – has gone through a thorough review process, in which the six confederations were involved.

The result is an amended version, which was approved by the FIFA Council. Among other things, the new version implements a more efficient procedure; specifies sanctions and the roles of each of the two chambers; and gives more responsibilities to the confederations. The new version of the Code of Ethics will come into force on 1 August 2018.

The FIFA Council approved the proposed dates for the two FIFA youth tournaments scheduled for next year:

  • FIFA U-20 World Cup Poland 2019: 23 May – 15 June
  • FIFA U-17 World Cup Peru 2019: 5-27 October

The next FIFA Council meeting is set to be held in Kigali, Rwanda, from 25 to 26 October 2018.