Countries That Should Host the World Cup
The 2022 World Cup host is Qatar. And with the United States, Mexico and Canada set to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup together, the world’s most popular sporting event is entering a new era. Never before have hosting duties for the tournament been spread among three nations. It is unlikely to be the last time.
In fact, the successful North American joint bid could set a new template for nations that want to get a piece of the World Cup pie without going at it alone in turns of bearing the ever-growing costs and infrastructure demands. As bidding begins to ramp up for tournaments in 2030 and beyond, two-, three- or even four-nation bids could become the rule rather than the exception, especially with FIFA planning to expand the tournament from 32 to 48 teams.
That means more countries than ever are positioning themselves to host all or parts of future Cups. Many of these nations have struck out in the past or haven't the wherewithal to muster a solo bid.
Here’s a look at 12 countries or regions that have never before hosted a World Cup but should be in the running starting in 2030.
Odds of hosting: 100 to 1
Why it would make a good host: The Eastern European nation invested heavily in infrastructure and facilities when it played host to the 2012 European Championships along with Poland, so it’s well-positioned for a World Cup bid when it sees fit.
Euro 2012 was a big success, setting attendance records, and Ukraine’s Olympic Stadium is the second-largest sports facility in Eastern Europe.
But given the ongoing strife with neighboring Russia, hosting the soccer tournament may not be the top priority of the nation’s leaders right now.
Note: This story was originally published in 2019, before Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
11. The Balkans
Odds of hosting: 25 to 1
Why they would make good hosts: If three nations can host the World Cup, why not four? That’s the thinking of Bulgaria, Greece, Romania and Serbia, which already are laying plans for bids to host the European Championships in 2028 and the World Cup two years later.
Economic and infrastructure challenges could stand in the way, which explains why so many nations are looking to team up. Greece is talking about modernizing its Olympic Stadium, and Serbia has plans to build a 60,000-capacity stadium.
Continent: South America
Odds of hosting: 22 to 1
Why it would make a good host: The nation was supposed to host the 1986 World Cup before internal problems, including economic dysfunction and a drug war, scuttled those plans.
Colombia didn’t try again until a bid for the 2014 tournament fizzled.
With the South American nation’s huge soccer tradition, it only makes sense that someday Colombia will get another crack, most likely in conjunction with a sister nation.
Odds of hosting: 20 to 1
Why it would make a good host: The Dutch are one of the many European soccer powers that have never hosted the World Cup. The Netherlands teamed with Belgium on an unsuccessful joint bid for the 2018 tournament, so don't be surprised to see another attempt at some point.
The country is eyeing a bid for the 2027 women’s World Cup, which could be a dry run for hosting the men’s tournament down the road.
Odds of hosting: 18 to 1
Why it would make a good host: For many of the same reasons that the Netherlands would. Belgium is another longtime soccer power that is home to beautiful cities and has the resources and infrastructure to make a viable bid, particularly in conjunction with other nations.
Its failed bid with the Netherlands for the 2018 tournament included plans to host matches at seven venues, so the Belgians have done their homework.
Continent: South America
Odds of hosting: 15 to 1
Why it would make a good host: Another South American nation where soccer is king. Peru is set to host this year’s Under-17 World Cup, a tournament it hosted in 2005. Seems like a perfect test run for the real deal.
Peru also hosted the Copa America in 2004. A joint bid with neighboring Colombia has a nice ring to it.
Odds of hosting: 12 to 1
Why it would make a good host: The Southeast Asian nation lost out in its bid for the 2022 World Cup, but it already is eyeing a run at the 2034 event, likely as part of a joint bid with Thailand and Vietnam.
Given the explosive growth in the region, the world’s fourth-most populous nation seems a good bet to eventually get its turn to host the world’s greatest sporting spectacle.
Indonesia was the first Asian country to play in a World Cup, competing in 1938 as the Dutch East Indies.
Odds of hosting: 10 to 1
Why it would make a good host: The Aussies have good reason to feel slighted by FIFA’s lack of interest in bringing the World Cup down under. Australia’s bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups went nowhere, with its most recent attempt garnering only one vote in the first round of voting.
While Australia doesn’t spring to mind as a world soccer hotbed, it’s the most played outdoor sport in the country and ranks in the top 10 for television audience. Given the nation’s beauty, resources and success as host to the 2000 Summer Olympics, it would seem to be a natural fit, if only the nation can sway a few FIFA voters.
Odds of hosting: 7 to 1
Why it would make a good host: Another European soccer power that is long overdue for a turn as host. Portugal came close in 2018 when its joint bid with Spain finished as the runner-up to Russia.
Obviously eyeing the success of the three-way North American bid, Portugal is now looking to partner with Spain and Morocco in making a run for the 2034 World Cup. If 2026 is indeed the new template, look for this trio to emerge as the early favorites for that tournament.
Continent: South America
Odds of hosting: 5 to 1
Why it would make a good host: This small South America nation’s planned joint bid with Argentina and Uruguay to host the 2030 Cup is likely to be the sentimental favorite, as there will be a strong incentive to mark the tournament’s 100th anniversary by bringing it back to its roots. Uruguay hosted the first World Cup, and won the title by defeating Argentina in the final.
While it’s easy to overlook Paraguay as a soccer hotbed on a continent where the sport is a religion practically everywhere, the nation is home to an estimated 1,600 teams spread across various leagues and has won the South American Championship (Copa America) twice.
Infrastructure always is a concern in South America, but a three-nation bid, with Paraguay fielding at least two venues, should find support within FIFA.
Odds of hosting: 2 to 1
Why it would be a good host: No country has wanted to host a World Cup more and come up short so many times. The North African nation has bid for the World Cup five times, most recently for the 2026 tournament, and been passed over each time. On four of those occasions, it was the runner-up in voting.
At some point, Morocco’s persistence seems destined to pay off, particularly if it also decides to go the joint bid route. It is looking to team up with Algeria and Tunisia, or Spain and Portugal, for a three-way bid to host the 2030 Cup, and has plans for a new stadium in Casablanca that would seat 95,000 fans.
Odds of hosting: 3 to 2
Why it would make a good host: It would seem to be only a matter of time before this economic superpower, and world’s most populous nation, gets its crack at hosting the world’s most popular sporting event.
China already has hosted two women’s World Cups, not to mention the 2008 Olympic Games, so there’s no question it possesses the infrastructure and resources to put on an event of this magnitude. The sport also has been steadily growing in popularity here.
The bigger question is when. With Qatar set to host the 2022 World Cup, the event likely won’t return to Asia anytime soon.