Saudi Arabia expressed interest quickly after FIFA said last month that it would accept applications for the 2034 men’s World Cup. FIFA accepted bids from only Asia and Oceania for 2034, “in line with the principle” of having confederations rotate as hosts. The 2026 World Cup takes place in North America, while in 2030, six countries from Africa, Europe and South America are co-hosting.
Australia’s soccer federation said it would focus on hosting the 2026 Women’s Asian Cup and the 2029 FIFA Club World Cup. “Achieving this — following the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 and with the Brisbane 2032 Olympic Games — would represent a truly golden decade for Australian football,” it said in a statement.
Saudi Arabia has sought to raise its profile in the soccer world in recent years, acquiring star players for its professional league from superior European teams, such as Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Rúben Neves, France’s Karim Benzema and Brazil’s Neymar.
Saudi Arabia routinely faces accusations of “sportswashing,” funneling high-profile investments into sports to soften its image as a human rights violator. Qatar, which hosted the 2022 World Cup, faced allegations of mistreating migrant workers who built the infrastructure for the tournament and was criticized for its criminalization of homosexuality.
Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, said in a 2022 interview with Fox that he doesn’t care about the criticism of the kingdom’s sports investments. “Well, if sportswashing is going to increase my GDP by one percent, then I will continue doing sportswashing,” he said.
“I don’t care. I have one percent GDP growth from sport, and I am aiming for another one and a half percent. Call it whatever you want, we’re going to get that one and a half percent,” he added.