A unique 2030 World Cup is set to be played in Europe and Africa with the surprising addition of South America in a deal to allow the men’s soccer tournament to start with a 100th birthday party in Uruguay.
FIFA reached an agreement on Wednesday between soccer’s continental leaders to accept only one candidate for hosting the 2030 tournament in six countries, the sport’s governing body said.
The Spain-Portugal bid grew to add Morocco this year and now also includes long-time bid rivals Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. All six national teams will get automatic entry to the 48-team tournament, FIFA said. A key lure of the unprecedented three-continent project is being able to open in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo, where the Centenario Stadium hosted the inaugural 1930 World Cup final.
“The centennial World Cup could not be far from South America, where everything began,” said Alejandro Dominguez, the president of South American soccer body CONMEBOL. “The 2030 World Cup will be played in three continents.”
The consensus reached by once-rival soccer continents also let Fifa fast-track the opening of the 2034 World Cup bidding contest, limited to member federations from Asia and Oceania. Saudi Arabia has targeted the 2034 edition and Australia also is interested after successfully co-hosting the Women’s World Cup this year with New Zealand. Either way, the 2034 tournament will almost certainly played in November and December – like last year’s World Cup in Qatar.
Accelerating the choice of a 2034 host to the end of next year will be widely seen as a victory for Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has built close ties to FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
“We want to celebrate our football culture and share our country with the world,” Yasser Al Misehal, the president of the Saudi soccer federation and a member of the Fifa Council, said in a government statement announcing its intention to bid.
The Fifa Council’s acceptance of a unified 2030 candidacy still needs formal approval next year at a meeting of the 211 member federations. That should be just a formality. The 2034 pick will be at a separate congress, Fifa said.
“In 2030, we will have a unique global footprint, three continents: Africa, Europe and South America; six countries – Argentina, Morocco, Paraguay, Portugal, Spain and Uruguay – welcoming and uniting the world while celebrating together the beautiful game, the centenary and the Fifa World Cup,” Infantino said in a statement.
The 48-team, 104-game tournament scheduled for June-July 2030 is planned to start with games in Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay before the action moves to the core host nations Spain, Portugal and Morocco.
The plan involves an unprecedented amount of travel across distances and time zones and was not popular with Football Supporters Europe, the fan group officially recognised by European soccer body UEFA.
“Fifa continues its cycle of destruction against the greatest tournament on earth,” FSE said in a statement. “Horrendous for supporters, disregards the environment and rolls the red carpet out to a host for 2034 with an appalling human rights record.”
The South American co-host bid has been promoted since the 2018 World Cup in Russia and had included Chile, which was not mentioned Wednesday. Ukraine was also dropped after it was added to the European bid a year ago at a news conference at UEFA headquarters in Switzerland. However, Ukraine not been mentioned in official comments about the UEFA-backed bid this year.
The first 48-team men’s World Cup will be hosted in 2026 by the United States, Canada and Mexico.
The 2030 decision marks a victory for Morocco, which has invested heavily in infrastructure in its largest cities and was last week chosen to host the 2025 African Cup of Nations. The men’s national team helped push its case by reaching the World Cup semifinals in Qatar, eliminating Spain and Portugal in the previous rounds.
In a statement on Wednesday, Moroccan King Mohammed VI’s Royal Cabinet said the selection “recognised Morocco’s choice place in the ranks of great nations.”
- An AP report