FIFA inspectors begin evaluating Mexico’s suitability to stage World Cup matches in 2026 on Monday after a study commissioned for the North American bid highlighted concerns about violent attacks on female fans, human rights activists and reporters in the country.
Mexico City is the first stop on a five-day trip by the FIFA task force, which also will visit Atlanta, Toronto and the New York metropolitan area, where the bid committee proposed the 2026 final be held at East Rutherford, New Jersey.
The FIFA delegation will score the rival Moroccan bid the following week before delivering assessments, which could disqualify a contender ahead of the June 13 vote in Moscow by the FIFA congress. The evaluation of bids is more stringent following concerns about the votes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, and rights abuses in Russia and Qatar.
FIFA mandated 2026 bidders to commission and submit independent human rights reports that weigh risks linked to the tournament. Morocco has denied repeated requests from The Associated Press to release its report.
The North American document, prepared by human rights assessors Ergon, stated the likelihood of worker abuses is significantly reduced in the U.S., Canada and Mexico because no stadiums or significant additional infrastructure must be built. Morocco, by contrast, plans $15.8 billion in construction projects to prepare the country for what would be its first World Cup, including $3 billion to build or renovate every stadium or training facility.
But Ergon identified key risks associated with Mexico hosting 10 of the 80 games in 2026 in Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey, which the bid has proposed solutions to address.
"The majority of women in Mexico City have experienced some form of sexual violence (including verbal harassment and unwanted touching) in their daily commute," Ergon wrote, citing the United Nations, "which raises issues in relation to the safety of women workers, fans and spectators when they commute to, or are inside competition buildings and spaces."
The report also identifies a "key risk relates to discriminatory incidents," pinpointing gay slurs by Mexican fans at matches, including one chant that translates as "male prostitute."
If the bid is victorious, Ergon believes there could be violent attempts to suppress scrutiny of Mexico.
"Violations of the right to freedom of expression have been flagged over the past years as one of Mexico’s most pressing problems by national and international entities," Ergon wrote.
The report pointed to "several documented reports of violence" against "human rights defenders" and the military being deployed to halt protests.
"There are also, unfortunately, significant examples in Mexico of journalists being subject to verbal, physical and violent threats and actual violence, including murder, based on their activities," Ergon write. "This risk may will (sic) only be exaggerated in the context of a FIFA World Cup."
Mexico is "one of the world’s most dangerous places" for reporters, Ergon said, citing the watchdog Freedom House.
The bid said it wants "zero harms to protesters or journalists" and will be "creating and exercising leverage to ensure respect for human rights in all aspects of planning and executing the event."
Limiting the risks presented by Mexico’s participation would be the first World Cup co-hosted by three nations. The U.S. would host 60 games, including all from the quarterfinals on.
The Ergon report flags "reports of law enforcement unfairly targeting minorities and migrants" in the U.S. and "some potential discrimination in relation to travel restrictions for some citizens from certain states."
President Donald Trump, who would have completed a potential second term before 2026, has tried to implement a ban on travel to the U.S. by residents of six majority-Muslim countries. The U.S. Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments for April 25 on the legality of restrictions, which have been repeatedly blocked and struck down by lower courts but which Trump says he deems necessary for Americans’ security.
"Our three governments are committed to collaborating to ensure that every law-abiding person is welcome to enjoy the 2026 FIFA World Cup," the North America bid said in its human rights strategy.
While Ergon’s report is intended to report before the rosters with risks associated with World Cups, the researchers acknowledge the U.S., Canada and Mexico are "well-established democracies where citizens can freely participate in the conduct of public affairs."