The FIFA World Cup is one of the biggest sporting events in the world. It is an international football/soccer tournament. Every four years, members of the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) play for the title of World Cup Champion. The first FIFA World Cup was held in 1930. Since then, tournaments have been held every four years, except for 1942 and 1946 when World War II was going on.
Most people agree that the FIFA World Cup is the most-watched sports event on the planet. During the 2018 finals tournament, more than 3.5 billion people watched, which is about half of the world’s population. The 2018 FIFA World Cup, which took place in Russia, was won by France in the end. The 2022 FIFA World Cup will be held in Qatar from November 21 to December 17, 2022. This will be the first time that a Middle Eastern country has hosted the event. The tournament in 2026 will be held in Mexico, Canada, and the United States. Mexico will be the first country to host the tournament three times.
FIFA has 211 members, which is more than the UN (193 countries plus 2 observer states as of 2021) or the International Olympic Committee (206 countries as of 2021). This is because FIFA’s definition of a country is a little bit less strict. For example, the United Nations sees the United Kingdom as a single country, but FIFA divides it into four “national” teams: Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. In the same way, Puerto Rico and Gibraltar may not be full countries according to the UN, but they are full members of FIFA. Any FIFA member can apply to host the FIFA World Cup, but it may be hard for smaller or less developed countries to meet the requirements.
Qualifying for FIFA World Cup
Because there are so many teams competing, just making it to the finals of the FIFA World Cup is a big deal in and of itself. There were 211 teams in the initial field for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, one for each member country. After three years of qualifying matches, which started in June 2019, the field will be cut down to 32 teams. FIFA has said that the finals will grow to include 48 teams for the 2026 tournament. This means that there will only be 32 teams in the finals for the 2022 tournament.
Slot allocation for the 2026 FIFA World Cup:
- Africa: 9 teams (up from 5)
- Asia: 8 teams (up from 4)
- Europe: 16 teams (up from 13)
- North and Central America: 6 teams (up from 3)
- Oceania: 1 team (up from 0)
- South America: 6 teams (up from 4)
- Play-in/Wild card slots: 2 teams
FIFA World Cup host countries
How FIFA chooses which countries will host has changed a lot over the years. At first, it was hard to agree on how to choose a host country because of how slow international travel is. The first FIFA World Cup was held in Uruguay, which is in South America. Not many European teams went, and many South American teams didn’t show up to the next two tournaments, which were held in Europe. FIFA started switching each event between the Americas and Europe so that it wouldn’t look like they were favouring one area over the other. It kept doing this until 2002, when Japan and South Korea held the first World Cup finals in Asia.
Since those early days, both air travel and the way FIFA picks players have changed a lot, making for a much more fair and reliable system. Each country that wants to host the World Cup sends a bid to FIFA’s Bid Evaluation Task Force a long time before the event. For example, bids to host the 2026 World Cup were due on October 15, 2017.
The BETF makes three reports after that:
- Compliance Assessment — Analyzes whether the bid meets FIFA’s bid requirements, the hosting template and the competition requirements.
- Risk Assessment — Analyzes whether hosting the tournament in the candidate country would lead to any human rights concerns.
- Technical Evaluation Report — Extensively examines infrastructure and logistics, including stadiums, housing, and transportation, as well as additional financial concerns (costs, estimated broadcast and ticket revenues, etc.) not addressed in the Risk Assessment.
These reports are given to the FIFA Council, which narrows down the bids to a short list of candidates. The FIFA congress, which includes representatives from all 211 FIFA member associations, then votes on these candidates. From the first reports to each member’s final vote, the whole process is open and available to the public.
Every FIFA World Cup host country through 2026 (alphabetical):
- Argentina: 1978
- Brazil: 1950, 2014
- Canada: 2026
- Chile: 1962
- England: 1966
- France: 1938, 1998
- Germany: 1974 (as West Germany), 2006
- Italy: 1934, 1990
- Japan: 2002
- Mexico: 1970, 1986, 2026
- Qatar: 2022
- Russia: 2018
- South Africa: 2010
- South Korea: 2002
- Spain: 1982
- Sweden: 1958
- Switzerland: 1954
- United States: 1994, 2026
- Uruguay: 1930