Saudi Arabia has officially communicated its desire to host the 2034 Men’s World Cup to FIFA. The announcement comes as part of the bidding process, which seems increasingly favorable for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi Arabian soccer federation made a formal submission to FIFA, including a letter of intent and a signed declaration of their bid. This bid will be considered in a voting process limited to members of the Asian and Oceania soccer governing bodies.
FIFA expedited the start of the 2034 bidding process recently, especially after deciding to accept only one candidate for the 2030 World Cup. The 2030 World Cup will feature a unique co-hosting arrangement among six nations spanning three continents—Europe, Africa, and South America. This approach ruled out these continents from hosting the subsequent World Cup in 2034.
The 2030 World Cup will follow the 2026 edition, which introduced a 48-team, 104-game tournament hosted by the United States, Mexico, and Canada. This allows the 2034 World Cup to return to Asia, 12 years after Qatar hosted the 2022 edition.
FIFA set stringent deadlines for expressing interest in hosting (by October 31) and returning a signed bidding agreement with government support (by November 30). Australian soccer officials have shown interest in hosting the 2034 tournament, given their successful co-hosting of the Women’s World Cup earlier. However, they have a tight timeline to meet FIFA’s requirements, including having at least seven existing stadiums with a minimum seating capacity of 40,000.
Saudi Arabia, which is gearing up to host the 2027 Asian Cup, meets these FIFA criteria. The Saudi Arabian soccer federation has also garnered support from more than 70 of FIFA’s 211 member federations.
Their goal is to “unlock new football opportunities at all levels and commit to supporting the growth of the game worldwide.” Over the past two years, the Saudi federation has signed working agreements with national and continental soccer bodies across the globe.
The final decision on selecting the hosts for the 2030 and 2034 World Cups will be made by FIFA members, with the FIFA Council, chaired by President Gianni Infantino, having a significant influence on the process. Infantino has developed close ties with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during frequent visits to Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi soccer project has seen the sovereign wealth Public Investment Fund acquire English club Newcastle in 2021 and take majority control of four leading Saudi clubs. These clubs have made substantial investments in acquiring players from European clubs, including stars like Neymar and Karim Benzema.
A Saudi-hosted World Cup, like the one in Qatar in 2022, is likely to be scheduled for November-December, coinciding with the European season. This would require negotiations and coordination with influential European clubs and domestic leagues.
Notably, the FIFA Council’s decision on bidding rules for the 2030 World Cup was postponed after a speculated Saudi-led co-hosting plan that involved Egypt was dropped, following discussions with the Greek government.
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