The FIFA World Cup is an international football/soccer competition that is one of the world’s most prestigious athletic events. Every four years, members of the FIFA Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) compete for the title of World Cup Champion.
Except in 1942 and 1946 due to World War II, the inaugural FIFA World Cup was contested in 1930, and subsequent tournaments were held every four years after that.
The FIFA World Cup is commonly regarded as the most-watched sporting event globally, with over 3.5 billion viewers—roughly half of the world’s population—watching the 2018 finals. The 2018 FIFA World Cup, held in Russia, ended with France as the overall winner.
Qatar will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup from November 21 to December 17, 2022, making it the first time a Middle Eastern nation has hosted the tournament. Mexico, Canada, and the United States will jointly host the 2026 tournament, becoming Mexico the first three-time host.
FIFA’s 211-member roster outnumbers both the United Nations (193 countries plus two observer states as of 2021) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) (206 countries as of 2021). This is because FIFA’s concept of nationhood is a little more nebulous.
The United Nations, for example, considers the United Kingdom to be one country, but FIFA splits it into four “national” teams: Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
In the same way, territories like Puerto Rico and Gibraltar may not be recognized as entire nations by the UN, yet they are full FIFA members. Any FIFA member may seek to host the World Cup, while smaller or less developed nations may find the requirements difficult to satisfy.
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FIFA World Cup qualification
Because of the magnitude of the competition, qualifying for the FIFA World Cup finals is a remarkable achievement in and of itself.
The original field for the 2022 FIFA World Cup consisted of 211 teams (one for each member nation), reduced to 32 teams over three years of qualifying matches (which began in June 2019) before the final tournament started.
The 2022 event, on the other hand, will be the last with 32 participants since FIFA has declared that the finals would be expanded to 48 teams in time for the 2026 tournament.
For the FIFA World Cup in 2026, the following slots have been allocated:
- 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
Countries that will host the FIFA World Cup
The FIFA method for selecting host nations has changed significantly over time. Because of the inefficiencies of international travel, choosing a host country was initially contentious.
Few European countries qualified for the initial FIFA World Cup, hosted in Uruguay (South America), and several South American teams withdrew when the following two tournaments were scheduled in Europe.
With each consecutive tournament, FIFA started to alternate between the Americas and Europe to avoid any appearance of partiality. This strategy was maintained until 2002 when Japan and South Korea jointly hosted Asia’s first World Cup finals.
FIFA’s selection procedure (along with air travel) has progressed significantly since those early days, resulting in a far more balanced and reliable system.
Each potential host nation submits a proposal to FIFA’s Bid Evaluation Task Force several years in advance—for example, bids for the 2026 World Cup were due on October 15, 2017. After that, the BETF produces three reports:
- Compliance Assessment: Determines if the bid complies with FIFA bid rules, hosting templates, and competition conditions.
- Risk Assessment: Assesses the bid’s estimated costs and revenues and any potential human rights issues that might result from holding the tournament in the applicant nation.
- Technical Evaluation Report: Delves into the finer points of infrastructure and logistics, such as available stadiums, housing, and transportation, as well as extra financial considerations (costs, expected broadcast and ticket revenues, and so on) that were not addressed in the Risk Assessment.
These reports are forwarded to the FIFA Council, which narrows the bids down to a shortlist of candidates, who are then voted on by the full FIFA Congress, which is comprised of delegates from all 211 FIFA member countries.
From the earliest reports through each member’s final vote, every stage of the process is completely transparent and open to the public.
Each FIFA World Cup host nation from 2018 through 2026 (in alphabetical order):
- 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
For those who want to see the information in chronological order…
Every FIFA World Cup host country through 2026 (chronological):
- 2026: Canada, United States (2nd time), Mexico (3rd time)
- 2022: Qatar
- 2018: Russia
- 2014: Brazil
- 2010: South Africa
- 2006: Germany (2nd time)
- 2002: Japan/South Korea
- 1998: France (2nd time)
- 1994: United States
- 1990: Italy (2nd time)
- 1986: Mexico
- 1982: Spain
- 1978: Argentina
- 1974: West Germany
- 1970: Mexico
- 1966: England
- 1962: Chile
- 1958: Sweden
- 1954: Switzerland
- 1950: Brazil
- 1946: — canceled (WWII) —
- 1942: — canceled (WWII) —
- 1938: France
- 1934: Italy
- 1930: Uruguay
|Germany||1974 (as West Germany), 2006|
|Mexico||1970, 1986, 2026|
|United States||1994, 2026|
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