KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- FIFA, sensationally, has jumped the gun on itself and decided how to divide up the 2030 Centenary World Cup while simultaneously opening the door for Saudi Arabia to stage a winter World Cup in 2034.

The decisions were taken by FIFA Council in an online video conference and will need to be ratified in due course by congress. But that will be a mere exercise in rubber stamping.

Football’s world governing body had been due to stage a congress vote on the 2030 hosting later next year. Only two formal bids were on the table. One was from a South American quartet of Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay and Chile with the other linking Spain, Portugal, North African neighbour Morocco and Ukraine.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino . . . delivering a diplomatic coup

In the event both Chile and Ukraine have fallen by the wayside, Ukraine for the obvious reason that no official international matches are permitted there while the country is engaged in hostilities after last year’s Russian invasion. South America’s Chilean element has vanished without a trace – to their government’s fury.

The decision is a diplomatic coup for FIFA president Gianni Infantino, comparable to the joint award of the 2002 finals to bitterly antagonistic Japan and South Korea by FIFA under the presidency of Joao Havelange.

FIFA’s projection for 2030 is that Spain, Portugal and Morocco will be the official World Cup but with at least three opening matches being staged in Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay in a manoeuvre which effectively ‘buys off’ South American confederation CONMEBOL. All three nations would also be granted direct seeding to the finals.

This should allow a celebratory match to be staged in Uruguay’s Estadio Centenario even though it is nowhere near the infrastructural standard now demanded of ‘normal’ World Cup venues.

The final would be played in Real Madrid’s redeveloped Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.


The decision was announced in a lengthy FIFA statement:

In 2030, the FIFA World Cup will unite three continents and six countries, inviting the entire world to join in the celebration of the beautiful game, the Centenary and the FIFA World Cup itself.

The FIFA Council unanimously agreed that the sole candidacy will be the combined bid of Morocco, Portugal, and Spain, which will host the event in 2030 and qualify automatically from the existing slot allocation subject to the completion of a successful bidding process conducted by FIFA and a decision by the FIFA Congress in 2024.

Additionally, having taken into account the historical context of the first-ever FIFA World Cup, the FIFA Council further unanimously agreed to host a unique centenary celebration ceremony in Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo, where the first ever FIFA World Cup took place in 1930, as well as three World Cup matches in Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay respectively.

Infantino said: “In a divided world, FIFA and football are uniting. The FIFA Council, representing the entire world of football, unanimously agreed to celebrate the centenary of the FIFA World Cup, whose first edition was played in Uruguay in 1930, in the most appropriate way.

“As a result, a celebration will take place in South America and three South American countries – Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay – will organise one match each of the FIFA World Cup 2030. The first of these three matches will of course be played at the stadium where it all began, in Montevideo’s mythical Estádio Centenário, precisely to celebrate the centenary edition of the FIFA World Cup.”

Unanimous vote

Infantino added: “The FIFA Council also agreed unanimously that the only bid to host the FIFA World Cup 2030 will be the joint bid of Morocco, Portugal and Spain. Two continents – Africa and Europe – united not only in a celebration of football but also in providing unique social and cultural cohesion. What a great message of peace, tolerance and inclusion.

“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.”

FIFA Council also decided that, in line with the rotation system, FAs from Asia and Ocenia would be invited to bid for 2034. Australia, after the success of the recent Women’s World Cup, may throw a hat into the ring. However it is widely expected that Infantino’s long-term pro-Saudi strategy will be rewarded whatever the Australians may propose and whatever the angst of the human rights lobby.

The 2026 finals will be hosted in three countries – Canada, Mexico and United States – for the first time with an expanded field of 48 teams.