(Geneva) The 2030 Men’s Soccer World Cup is set to take place in six countries on three continents, in a unique format that will allow the tournament to celebrate its 100th anniversary in Uruguay.

FIFA reached an agreement on Wednesday between continental soccer leaders to accept the candidacy of Spain, Portugal and Morocco, co-organizers of the event, as the sole candidate for organizing rights.

The agreement also provides for the organization of matches in South American countries, namely Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, which had previously submitted a competing bid.

These three countries will each host a game to kick off the tournament, allowing FIFA to stage the opening match in Montevideo, the Uruguayan capital, where the Centenario Stadium hosted the inaugural final of the 1930 World Cup.

Spain and Portugal first submitted a joint application before it was extended to Morocco, a country in northern Africa, earlier this year.

The six host countries will be automatically admitted to the tournament, which will feature 48 teams, FIFA said. This will be the first time that the World Cup will take place on more than one continent.

“The centenary of the World Cup could not be far from South America, where it all began,” explained Alejandro Dominguez, president of CONMEBOL, the South American football body. “The 2030 World Cup will be played on three continents. »

The consensus reached by once-rival continental soccer organizations also allowed FIFA to fast-track the opening of bidding for the 2034 World Cup, limited to member federations in Asia and Africa. Oceania.

Saudi Arabia is targeting the 2034 edition and Australia is also interested after successfully hosting this year’s Women’s World Cup with New Zealand. Regardless, the 2034 tournament will most likely take place in November and December, like the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and therefore in the heart of the club season in Europe.

Accelerating the choice of host country from 2034 to the end of next year will be widely seen as a victory for Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has forged close ties with the FIFA president, Gianni Infantino.

“We want to celebrate our football culture and share our country with the world,” said Yasser Al Misehal, the president of the Saudi Football Federation and a member of the FIFA Council, in a government statement announcing its intention to file its candidacy.

The FIFA Council’s acceptance of a unified bid for 2030 must still be formally approved next year at a meeting of all 211 member federations. It should just be a formality. The choice for the 2034 tournament will be made in a separate meeting, FIFA said.

“By 2030 we will have a single 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 sport (soccer), the centenary and the FIFA World Cup,” said Infantino, in a statement.

The 48-team, 104-match tournament, scheduled for June and July 2030, will begin with matches in Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay, before moving to Spain, Portugal and Morocco.

This plan, which involves an unprecedented number of trips linked to the distances and time zones covered, including 13-hour flights between Buenos Aires and Madrid.

This plan displeased Football Supporters Europe (FSE), the group of supporters officially recognized by UEFA, the European soccer body.

“FIFA continues its cycle of destroying the biggest tournament in the world,” FSE said in a statement. “Horrible for fans, contemptuous of the environment and rolling out the red carpet to a 2034 host with an appalling human rights record. »

The first 48-team Men’s World Cup will be hosted in 2026 by the United States, Canada and Mexico.

The 2030 decision marks a victory for Morocco, which has invested heavily in infrastructure in its largest cities and was chosen last week to host the 2025 Africa Cup of Nations.

The men’s national team helped advance its case by reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup in Qatar, after eliminating Spain and Portugal in the previous rounds.

In a statement released Wednesday, the office of Morocco’s King Mohammed VI said the selection “recognizes the prominent place Morocco occupies in the ranks of great nations.”