Saudi Arabia Set to Host 2034 World Cup

Football Monday November 13, 2023 By: Jack Smith

Saudi Arabia has been confirmed as the sole bidder to host the Men’s FIFA World Cup in 2034, making it all but a formality that there will be a second World Cup in the Gulf within 12 years.

Australia opted not to submit a bid to host the tournament just hours before FIFA’s deadline for declarations of interest, which was last Tuesday.

Saudi’s Investment Pays Dividends for World Cup Bid

The anticipation of a World Cup taking place in Saudi Arabia has been a long-held expectation, given the country’s substantial investments in sports in recent years, which have consistently pointed toward this significant milestone.

For those who have been closely following Saudi Arabia’s transformative influence in the world of golf via the innovative LIV Series, it’s increasing prominence as a host for top-tier boxing events, and it’s disruptive impact on the global football transfer market, the realization of this World Cup opportunity shouldn’t come as a major surprise.

With the country now almost certain to host the tournament in eleven years, there is a possibility that it may become even more contentious than Qatar’s hosting in the previous year. Concerns encompass a wide range of issues, including human rights worries, FIFA’s management of the bidding process, potential disruptions to the sporting calendar, and the impact on player well-being due to the likely need for another winter World Cup to avoid extreme summer temperatures.

The potential for disruption could surpass that of the 2022 Qatar World Cup, with an expanded 48-team format and the necessity for substantial infrastructure development, there are fears around sustainability too. Even though Saudi Arabia boasts a richer footballing history compared to Qatar, attendances at most of the Pro League clubs have declined during the current season.

However, regardless of the actual intentions of Saudi Arabia’s leadership, their unopposed bid for the 2034 World Cup will heighten scrutiny of FIFA’s procedures and decision-making. Some observers have expressed reservations that this result may have been deliberately orchestrated, creating an effective fait accompli in a deal marked by a lack of transparency and accountability.

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Looking Ahead to the World Cup in 2026 & 2030

The 2026 World Cup will take place from June to July and will be jointly hosted by 16 cities in three North American countries: Canada, Mexico and the US. The tournament will be the first hosted by three nations and the first North American World Cup since 1994.

The upcoming tournament will mark the introduction of an expanded format featuring 48 teams, a significant increase from the previous 32-team setup. The United 2026 bid successfully prevailed over a competing bid by Morocco in the final vote held at the 68th FIFA Congress in Moscow. Notably, this tournament will be the first since 2002 to be jointly hosted by multiple nations.

The FIFA World Cup is set to undergo a significant transformation by featuring 48 teams for the first time. This expansion represents an increase of 16 teams compared to the previous seven tournaments. The teams will be divided into 12 groups of 4 teams. The top two teams from each group, along with the eight best third-placed teams, will advance to a new round of 32. The expansion was officially approved by the FIFA Council on March 14th 2023, marking the first alteration of its kind since 1998.

Now looking at the 2030 FIFA World Cup, the 24th edition of the tournament is a significant milestone, celebrating the centennial of the World Cup competition. It will also introduce a novel approach to hosting, with three countries spanning two continents taking on the responsibility. Spain, Portugal, and Morocco will jointly host the event.

Furthermore, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay will participate as nations that kick off the tournament, in a special tribute to the 100th anniversary of the inaugural World Cup held in Uruguay. This competition will represent a return to Africa, which last hosted in 2010, South America, which last hosted in 2014, and Europe, which last hosted in 2018.

The announcement of the 2030 addition has generated criticism from various quarters, including fans, football officials, and environmental organisations. These critics have raised concerns about the considerable distance between South America and Europe, which would necessitate extensive air travel. This, in turn, could significantly increase the tournament’s carbon footprint and potentially undermine FIFA’s carbon-neutral initiatives.

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