Russia 2018: 'Trump factor helping Morocco,' says rival 2026 World Cup bid member

Story highlights

  • Morocco World Cup bid fires shot at Trump
  • US, Canada and Mexico comprise North America bid
  • Voting to take place Wednesday in Russia

(CNN)Morocco has had an unexpected helping hand from US President Donald Trump over the last few months in its bid to win the right to stage the 2026 World Cup, according to a member of the North African country's bid.

Morocco --which has largely been seen as an underdog -- is up against a unified bid from Canada, the US and Mexico.
"I think that Donald Trump factor is helping Morocco," Moncef Belkhayat, a member of Morocco's 2026 bid committee, told CNN Sport's Alex Thomas.
    Belkhayat was responding to a question about Trump's April tweet lobbying for support.
    "The US has put together a STRONG bid w/ Canada & Mexico for the 2026 World Cup," Trump tweeted.
    "It would be a shame if countries that we always support were to lobby against the U.S. bid.
    "Why should we be supporting these countries when they don't support us (including at the United Nations)?"
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    Since the unified World Cup bid was announced in April 2017, the relationship between the White House and its proposed co-hosts has been touchy at times.
    Recently Trump called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau "meek and mild" in a tweet over a tariff dispute following a G7 meeting.
    Tariffs imposed on Mexico along with plans for a border wall have also ruffled feathers south of the border.
    "When you see what's happening with Mexico, what's happening with Canada lately, that's something that is not ... you don't look united." Belkhayat added. "How united are you?
    "Now we are seeing that politics is entering into the game. We believe that politics should be independent from football."
    Each of FIFA's 207 non-competing members will cast a vote in Moscow on Wednesday at the 68th FIFA Congress, with a simple majority winning.
    Since the 2018 and 2022 World Cups were awarded to Russia and Qatar in December 2010, the voting process has gone under an intense amount of scrutiny, thanks in part to an FBI investigation.
    The US was on the losing side of the 2022 World Cup bid.
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    After the controversial award of the 2018 and 2022 tournaments to Russia and Qatar respectively, FIFA has promised a "more open and transparent" vote this time. The voting of the national associations will be published at the conclusion of Congress.
    "The vote of UEFA and Asia will be decisive," said Belkhayat. "We will cross fingers in order to make sure this will be a fair play process, a transparent process."
    The New York Times vote tracker lists the North America bid as slightly ahead in the running, though 133 federations remain uncommitted, with 104 votes needed to guarantee victory.
    However Belkhayat insisted the vote would be very close, adding: "It's 50-50."