World Cup 2030
So much for the Nations League, and the European Championship is yet to start again. But what about the future of the World Cup?
Firstly, everything is settled for 2022, with no more talk of taking it away from Qatar. That sort of antagonistic chatter was always hot air, anyway. Once FIFA had signed the contract the hosting was set.
The only debate now surrounds whether there will be 32 or 48 teams, with a formal decision to be taken by FIFA Council in March, ahead of the draw for the qualifying competition.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino says he is keeping an open mind as that is what he knows Africa, Asia, CONCACAF and CONMEBOL want to hear. But Qatar has long since envisaged cutting its hosting cloth to eight stadia, while accommodation concerns are already being raised.
Similarly, 2026 is all settled. The USA, thanks to a decisive vote in FIFA Congress in Moscow in June, will be the core host, with the support of Canada and Mexico. While critics still moan about distances, remember that this is a tournament that spread itself across the vast space of Brazil in 2010 and western Russia in 2018.
The sports-bidding industry has been asleep ever since the 2026 decision, and on the Olympic side ever since last year when the IOC had little option but to hand 2024 to Paris and 2028 to Los Angeles. As for the Winter Olympics, fewer and fewer cities are being allowed by their own taxpayers to shoulder the cost.
But football is a different story. A host of smaller nations want to share in the FIFA largesse bestowed from hosting the junior tournaments. As a result, prospective bidders are already gathering for the 2030 World Cup and beyond.
Naturally, the romantic vision would be to take the centenary tournament back to its launch pad, in Uruguay, where the nation marked its own 100th anniversary in 1930 by welcoming the world – even if FIFA president Jules Rimet had to lean on his own French federation to join three other European FAs in the pioneering Atlantic sea crossing.
A nation of 68,000 square miles and 3.4million people, Uruguay cannot stage a repeat on its own. Thirteen teams played in 1930, but in 2030 it will be 48 – if not more. Hence the
first act has been the preparation of a co-hosting bid with neighbours Paraguay to the north west and Argentina to the south and west.
The Uruguayans believe they have a strong case and CONMEBOL will support them. And while that only means 10 votes, they believe that increasingly strong ties with CONCACAF will bring in more support from the Caribbean and Central & North America.
Morocco, five times a loser when it comes to hosting, has evinced a will to bid again – maybe with Algeria and Tunisia, maybe with Portugal and Spain across the Straits of Gibraltar. However, the first option looks questionable and UEFA would take a dim view of the second. As UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin says, updating the 2010 official song: “It’s time for Europe.”
Unofficially, albeit still at an early stage, UEFA would look favourably on a co-host bid from the four British home nations plus the Republic of Ireland. That is already five votes within the European federation itself.
Such a bid can tell its own historic tale, given England’s role as the 19th-century cradle of the modern game. FA chairman Greg Clarke has flown busily around the continent since his election in succession to Greg Dyke in 2016 to improve sporting and political relations and relationships.
That is likely to stand him in good stead when he contests UEFA’s slot for a British FIFA vice-president. Success for Clarke would be considered a positive step down the road towards England’s place as core partner of a five-way cohosting in 2030.
A surprise was a statement of co-host bidding intent from Bulgaria, Greece, Romania and Serbia. But the real Balkan target here is building momentum and credibility towards pursuit of the finals of the European Championship in 2028.
In the meantime, what are the prospects for Uruguay for 2030?
The Uruguayans have just staged the Under-17 Women’s World Cup and carried it off with aplomb – evidence once more of the boast by old coach Ondino Viera that “other countries have their history, Uruguay has its football”.
For the Uruguayans their greatest pride is also their greatest problem: the Estadio Centenario.
At the recent championship decider, in which Penarol secured their 50th Primera Division crown by beating old
Clasico rivals Nacional 2-1 after extra time, the atmosphere generated by the two sets of supporters with their incessant drumming, chanting and singing was magnificent.
But the Centenario was originally thrown together in only eight months. It is now 88 years old and looks it. The walls are decorated with photographs of the old heroes, but the pictures are black-and-white and from another era. The football world has long since transformed and upgraded into ultra-high definition colour.
Walking into the Centenario is like walking back in time. It remains rooted in its own history as the protected national monument it has been designated. It is breathtaking – but as a venue for the 2030 World Cup Final it’s impossible.
For the Under-17 Women’s World Cup, the Uruguayans used the upgraded little Estadio Charrua rugby ground in Montevideo and minimalist venues in Colonia del Sacramento to the west and Maldonado to the east. They served a purpose for this event but that is all.
If the Uruguayans are serious about staging the World Cup Final in 2030 they must find, from somewhere, the funds to build one major new stadium and at least one more to match Penarol’s new 40,000-capacity Estadio Campeón del Siglo. The Centenario might stage some sort of pre-finals gala but that is all.
If Uruguay really wants the World Cup it must come to terms with its history... and move on. And signal that intention very fast.
“Other countries have their history, Uruguay has its football” Former national coach Ondino Viera
Outdated...the Estadio Centenario
Hosts...Uruguay (in blue) take on Ghana in the Under-17 Women’s World Cup