Soccer’s World Cup will be staged in six countries on three continents in its centenary edition in 2030, an unexpected and complex alteration to its traditional format that was approved on Wednesday in a meeting of FIFA’s governing council.
In the unusual arrangement, three South American countries — Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay — each will host a single opening match on home soil and then join the rest of the field for the rest of the tournament, which will take place in Spain, Portugal and Morocco.
The six countries had initially joined forces regionally in separate bids for the hosting rights to the 100th anniversary World Cup, a globe-stopping, monthlong soccer festival that produces billions of dollars in revenue for FIFA every four years.
The offer from the three South American nations had long been considered an outsider, however, to the three-nation bid from Spain, Portugal and Morocco, which was officially declared the sole bidder for 2030 on Wednesday. But under the new arrangement to recognize the tournament’s centenary, each nation will get to take a turn as host.
“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,” FIFA said in a statement after the meeting.
”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.”
The complexity and size of the World Cup has grown steadily in recent decades, and the next edition — in 2026 — will be expanded by 12 teams to 48 in total. That size, and FIFA’s exacting requirements for bidding countries, however, mean that few nations are now capable of staging the event alone.
The 2026 tournament will mostly be held in the United States, but games also will be staged in Mexico and Canada — the first time the tournament will be played in three countries. The complexities of holding that event have yet to be worked out, and officials are still grappling with a slew of issues ranging from visa-free travel for spectators to taxation.
Speculation that FIFA was preparing to make surprise announcement was tipped by the South American soccer head Alejandro Dominguez, a FIFA vice president, who took to social media as the meeting was taking place to post a video of himself dancing, suggesting in Spanish “something global is coming for all football fans.”
Dominguez then broke the news in a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, before FIFA had a chance to make its announcement.
“We believed in big,” Dominguez wrote in Spanish. “The 2030 Centennial World Cup begins where it all began.”