World Cup 2030 Race Hots Up

South America joins the chase for the cup

The 2030 World Cup hosting race is becoming a free-for-all with four bids now confirmed for the world's biggest show.

This week, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay & Uruguay launched an ambitious plan for the tournament, following on from Morocco's CAF bid and two from UEFA.

"2030 Together" is the CONMEBOL bid's slogan. It would be the first World Cup hosted by four nations. 

2030 Juntos
Four South American nations are gunning for 2030

Their bid also stresses the centenary of 2030, a hundred years since the first World Cup in Uruguay in 1930, as their key selling point.

"This is not a project of a government but the dream of a whole continent," announced CONMEBOL's Paraguayan president Alejandro Dominguez, with no understatement. 
Uruguayan sports minister Sebastian Bauza implored, "FIFA has to return to the origin where football began," blissfully ignoring the sport's actual history, well-documented by the FIFA Museum in Zurich.

Uruguay's football association chief Ignacio Alonso even opined that the world's governing body "owes a moral debt to those founders of 1930," forgetting that said founders were mostly French (Robert Guerin and Jules Rimet) and that the first World Cup contained only four European nations - Belgium, France, Romania and Yugoslavia, and only then after much begging and cajoling.

Uruguay had been selected as the first World Cup hosts because the nation was celebrating its centenary of independence and they were the reigning Olympic football champions.

Athens made the same case about the Olympics in an effort to return the modern games to Greece for their centenary in 1996. They went to Atlanta in the USA instead before coming back to Athens in 2004.

A four-team bid makes sense given the World Cup will expand to 48 finalists in the 2026 tournament, to be hosted by Canada, Mexico, and the United States. 

FIFA would probably not fret about handing out four free entries to those South American bidders, given at least two of them are almost certain to qualify anyway from CONMEBOL's current allocation of four and a half qualifiers.

A current shortcoming however is the stadia - the largest probable venue is River Plate's Estadio Monumental, which with 70,000 seats is 10,000 short of FIFA's minimum requirement for the opening game and final.

River Plate Stadium.
River Plate Stadium, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Another South American bid, from Colombia, Ecuador and Peru remains a possibility, with the selling point of never having hosted the World Cup, although the infrastructure is a real uncertainty with no intercity passenger rail.

Europe's entries are from Spain & Portugal and Bulgaria, Greece, Romania & Serbia. 

The Iberian bid, with the simple hashtag 'Let's Go', looks to have the edge on the Balkan one, given their domestic clubs' international clout.

With a British Isles bid now formally abandoned following the disgraceful disturbances at the Euro 2020 final, UEFA will probably get behind a proposal that offers existing top-quality stadia, high-speed rail and road networks and an extensive tourism infrastructure, as well as the brand clout of Barcelona, Benfica, Atletico, and Real Madrid.

Spain & Portugal.
The heads of state of Portugal & Spain announce their bid

The Spanish half of the bid has already announced 15 possible stadia (to become a final list of 11), including all the usual suspects - Madrid's Bernabeu (81,000 capacity) and Metropolitano (68,000), Barcelona's Camp Nou (99,000), Valencia's Nou Mestalla (70,000) and Seville's La Cartuja (60,000). 

Portugal will offer three arenas - Lisbon's Estadio da Luz (64,000) and Jose Alvalade (50,000) as well as Porto's Estadio do Dragao (50,000). The Iberian bid looks strong and crucially low-risk.

There is still time for other nations to enter the race with the final decision due at the FIFA Congress in 2024, but time is running out. The final shortlist is expected this autumn.

FIFA rotation rules forbid an AFC entry until 2034, although these rules have been changed before.  As it stands, Africa, Europe or South America could bid, with Africa or South America ahead, if there is such a thing as a gentlemanly queue.

An Asian bid may yet launch therefore since FIFA boss Gianni Infantino has mentioned the possibility of a Chinese announcement receiving official consideration, although the sleeping giant may wait for 2034 instead, which looks a surer bet. 

Should China enter the race, they will be hard to beat financially but have a lack of experience navigating FIFA politics. Beijing's 2008 Summer Olympics is the yardstick when it seemed a superpower was announcing its geo-political arrival.

Australia & Indonesia had also discussed a joint move to bid for 2030, although news has gone quiet on their bid this year. Australia were planning to move on a bid last year and like China, are a probable World Cup host sooner or later.

Morocco is trying for the sixth time to host the World Cup

is going for the sixth time lucky with their attempt, which may add Algeria, Egypt and Tunisia, who have also expressed interest. Morocco is close to Europe which plays in its favor, but has poorer transport links than Iberia, with security a perennial worry in the background. FIFA's last technical inspection, for its 2026 bid, noted deficiencies in its stadia, accommodation and transport.

A lot of neutrals would like to see North Africa win the hosting rights eventually, since the region has never been chosen before, and one cannot fault Morocco's tenacity in continually bidding, but 2030 looks like coming down to a scrap between football's traditional two powerhouses of Europe and South America.

Unless FIFA alters its hosting rules to focus on a particular region each time, it looks like Morocco will continue to be outgunned.

Expressions of interest from Israel, Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia seem unlikely to flower.

We will know for sure in a couple of years. Get ready for the real bidding war later in 2022.


2002 - ASIA (Japan & South Korea)
2006 - EUROPE (Germany)
2010 - AFRICA (South Africa)
2014 - SOUTH AMERICA (Brazil)
2018 - EUROPE (Russia)
2022 - ASIA (Qatar)
2026 - NORTH & CENTRAL AMERICA (USA, Canada & Mexico)
2030 - ?

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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