On Wednesday, Fifa unveiled an unprecedented formula for the 2030 FIFA World Cup, with matches spread across Europe, Africa and South America to celebrate the centenary of the event.
For the first time in the tournament’s history, the European, African and South American confederations have agreed on a single bid, presented by Morocco, Spain and Portugal, but with three matches to be held in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.
One hundred years after the first edition in Montevideo, the men’s World Cup “will unite three continents and six countries”, promises the soccer body, which has yet to validate the technical criteria and will not officially award the competition until the end of 2024.
However, with the Fifa Council’s “unanimous” approval of this single bid, the road seems clear for this intercontinental organization, promising a complex political and logistical set-up and numerous questions surrounding the impact of major sporting events.
“Fifa continues its cycle of destruction against the world’s greatest tournament”, reacted the Football Supporters Europe association on X (ex-Twitter), deploring a “horrible” formula for fans and “no consideration” for the environment.
Wednesday’s announcement puts an end to the rumoured rivalry between two favourites, a joint bid by Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Paraguay, and a European ticket long led by Spain and Portugal.
A year ago, with the support of UEFA, the two countries included Ukraine in their bid, saying they wanted to send “a message of solidarity and hope” and pay tribute to the “tenacity and resilience” of a country occupied by the Russian army since February 2022.
But this highly political pairing had not been clarified since, and Morocco, the five-time unsuccessful bidder to host the tournament, entered the fray in mid-March, without at the time specifying what would become of Ukraine.
“I am convinced that, with Morocco and Portugal, we will organize the best World Cup in history,” said Pedro Rocha, acting president of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), quoted in a joint statement by the three federations.
“This decision by the Fifa Council salutes and recognizes Morocco’s choice place in the concert of great nations,” said the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, in a statement.
Not only is his country, which is coming off a historic semi-final appearance at the FIFA World Cup in 2022, set to become the second African country to host a FIFA World Cup since South Africa in 2010, it has also secured one of the three qualifying places reserved for official hosts, according to Fifa.
Asia or Oceania in 2034?
And while this is not the case for the South American countries, who will have to make it through the qualifiers, they have won two major concessions in exchange for the withdrawal of the Argentina-Chile-Uruguay-Paraguay bid.
Montevideo, Asunción and Buenos Aires will each host a “festive match” of the tournament, Fifa said. These should be the three inaugural matches, although the opening ceremony will be held in the official host countries, according to a source within the body.
Finally, according to the organization, a “centenary ceremony” will be held “at the stadium where it all began”, in Montevideo, when the event brought together 13 teams in the same host city – compared with 32 for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and 48 from the 2026 edition in the USA, Canada and Mexico.
The Estadio Centenario is set to host the very first match, according to the head of the South American Confederation Alejandro Dominguez, while the Argentinians will play their first match “at home”, according to the Argentine Federation.
Fifa has also launched a call for bids for the next edition, in 2034, with the Asian and Oceanic confederations taking part in accordance with the tournament’s continental rotation principle.
Unsurprisingly, Saudi Arabia, which had set its sights on the 2030 World Cup, confirmed that it would bid to host the 2034 tournament.