The decision came as a surprise. The FIFA World Cup should actually only be awarded at the 2024 FIFA Congress in Bangkok. That has now been resolved. The Fifa Council, a kind of political bureau of the world football association and thus the highest decision-making body, surprisingly announced that the 2030 World Cup will take place in six countries on three continents. The first three games of the tournament will take place in Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina, while all other games (101 in total) will take place in Spain, Portugal and Morocco. FIFA quickly combined two applications into one. The 211 state associations still have to agree at next year’s congress. No one doubts that the majority will come.

The tournament will finally become an event that moves away from a central or close location. From 2026, 48 teams will take part instead of 32 as before. The metamorphosis of the Football World Cup, the largest sporting event in the world alongside the Olympic Games, has serious consequences – and sometimes provokes massive criticism. We summarize the most important points.

Fans: Larger tournaments in multiple countries are a problem for supporters. You have to travel time-consuming and expensive. It is also questionable whether decentralized tournaments with long distances create a real football atmosphere in the countries. There will hardly be a summer fairy tale like the one in Germany in 2006 in the future. There are hardly any football parties at airports.

National teams: The teams also face a logistical challenge, especially when it comes to the question of accommodation. In particular, the six teams that first have to play in South America will face a difficult task if they have to jet to Europe for the next game. The question arises to what extent this represents a disadvantage in terms of sport.

Environment: Fifa and its President Gianni Infantino like to portray the world association as environmentally friendly. Infantino and his marketing department like to preach that there is hardly any way to be more sustainable. The tournament in Qatar was therefore climate neutral. That might be nonsense. FIFA received a reprimand from the Swiss Fair Trade Commission (SLK) for the claim after there were several complaints. The commission criticized FIFA for creating the “false and misleading impression” that the World Cup in Qatar was already climate and CO2 neutral before and during the tournament. No wonder, thousands of fans traveled from neighboring countries to individual games because there were too few accommodation options in Qatar. In 2026 and 2030 there will be many more supporters who will travel long distances by plane.

Saudi Arabia: Infantino and the Council have set the stage for awarding the 2034 tournament to Saudi Arabia by awarding the 2030 World Cup to six countries and three continents. Why? The continents of Europe, South America and Africa are automatically out of the running due to the rotation principle. The same applies to North and Central America, which will host the 2026 World Cup in Mexico, the USA and Canada. Countries from Asia and Oceania remain as hosts. Saudi Arabia is likely to prevail with its investments in its own league and numerous superstars. Australia, also a potent host, has little argument for hosting a World Cup two years later with the 2032 Olympic Games in Brisbane. China is no longer a country without football enthusiasm and Japan and South Korea took their turn in 2002. Infantino’s close ties to Saudi Arabia will be an additional factor. Critics see the 2030 award as just a move to hand the 2034 World Cup tournament to the Saudis without any problems.

Finances: The money machine is running like clockwork for FIFA. Revenues of at least $11 billion are expected by 2026. The 2030 World Cup is unlikely to bring in much less. If the 2034 World Cup goes to Saudi Arabia, the entire Arab world will be united behind it, as was the case in Qatar, which should increase revenues again.

Criticism: The Fifa Council’s decision was quickly followed by criticism. It is said that part of football is becoming increasingly alienated from the fans. “At some point we’ll play on Mount Everest because we can conjure up a football pitch there and we can market it,” said Marco Rose, coach of RB Leipzig, for example. “It looks like we’re not at the end of the screwing yet. I think it’s a shame, maybe even silly.” The fan organization Football Supporters Europe (FSE) criticized on

Sources: DPA, “Süddeutsche Zeitung”, “kicker”, “Sportschau”