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Qatar, Morocco land deals for expanding U-17 World Cups, Women’s Asian Cup set for Australia, Uzbekistan

Gianni Infantino addresses the FIFA Council meeting on March 14, 2024

Images: FIFA & AFC

FIFA has agreed five-year hosting deals with Qatar and Morocco for men’s and women’s editions of its U-17 World Cup that will change from biennial to annual tournaments, while Australia and Uzbekistan are poised to land the next two editions of the Women’s Asian Cup.

Starting from 2025, the men’s U-17 World Cup will expand from 24 to 48 teams, with its next five editions to take place in Qatar.

The U-17 Women’s World Cup has been expanded from 16 to 24 teams and will be played annually as of 2025 in Morocco through to 2029.

FIFA said the award of the hosting rights to Qatar and Morocco followed a global call for expressions of interest in hosting both competitions, “with a focus on leveraging the use of existing footballing infrastructure in the interest of tournament efficiencies and sustainability”. 

Responding to the award, the Qatar Football Association (QFA) said: “This significant decision reflects FIFA’s confidence in Qatar’s capabilities and remarkable potential to successfully organise major football events.

“The announcement underscores Qatar’s growing prominence in football and the nation’s commitment to fostering global sporting excellence.”

Qatar hosted the 2022 World Cup, while Morocco in October was confirmed as one of six host nations for the 2030 tournament, alongside Spain, Portugal, Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay.

FIFA said it envisions the U-17 World Cups to shift from a purely stadium-based model to an event experience that resembles a “festival of football”. FIFA believes the extended hosting period will allow the hosts to optimise existing football facilities, and make best use of other infrastructure, such as transport and accommodation.

It said the concept allows organisational structures to remain intact from one tournament to the next, enabling those working on the tournament to “gain experience, maximising efficiency and reducing costs, while ensuring improved delivery year-on-year”.

FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, said: “Qatar hosted the best-ever FIFA World Cup in 2022, welcoming the world to the first FIFA World Cup held in an Arab country. I am delighted to see a FIFA tournament returning there, making use of the fantastic facilities some of the world’s best footballers enjoyed.

“Qatar have already shown what wonderful tournament hosts they are, and combined with their peerless hospitality, the infrastructure and stadiums they already have in place will put the planet’s top talents in the very best conditions to perform.”

He added: “Football in Morocco has gone from strength to strength in recent years. While the men’s team reached the last four at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the women’s team have made such impressive strides, thanks to the support of the government and the Moroccan Football Association, and the talent of the players.

“I believe hosting the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup over five years will inspire so many more girls – and boys – to take up football in the country, and as it is the first time the tournament comes to Africa, that inspiration will spread right across the continent.”

Indonesia hosted the 2023 U-17 World Cup from November 10 to December 2, while the 2024 U-17 Women’s World Cup is due to be held in the Dominican Republic from October 16 to November 3.

Australia, Uzbekistan lined up for Women’s Asian Cups

Meanwhile, the Women’s Football Committee of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has recommended Football Australia and the Uzbekistan Football Association (UFA) as the host associations of the 2026 and 2029 editions of the Women’s Asian Cup.

The decision was made today (Friday) in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, at a meeting held on the eve of the U20 Women’s Asian Cup final, a tournament which Uzbekistan is hosting. While certain formalities of the bidding process are in the midst of being finalised, the AFC administration has been mandated to confirm the award of the hosting rights once all requirements are met.

Women’s Football Committee chairperson, Kanya Keomany (pictured), said: “The FIFA Women’s World Cup that was co-hosted in Australia last year set new benchmarks and is widely regarded as the best edition in history, showcasing once again the strength of women’s football in Asia.

“Australia presents the opportunities to build on the commercial appeal of the competition and engage with more fans than ever before, so I am confident that Football Australia will stage a memorable spectacle that will not only elevate the women’s game but also set the standard for future editions of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup.”

Once officially confirmed, the decision will see Australia, which was the only remaining bidder following the withdrawals of Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan, take centre-stage for only the second time in history after the 2006 tournament was hosted in Adelaide.

Uzbekistan, the sole bidders for the 2029 edition, are set to be the first Central Asian nation to host the Women’s Asian Cup. In assessing the UFA’s bid, the Committee noted Uzbekistan’s track record of successfully staging recent AFC competitions, which include the 2023 U20 Asian Cup, the 2022 U23 Asian Cup and the ongoing U20 Women’s Asian Cup.

Keomany added: “In 2022, India were the first South Asian host in more than 40 years, and in 2018, Jordan was the first ever West Asian host in history.

“Now in 2029, we have the opportunity to further realise our ambitions to grow and expand the reach of the women’s game all across the continent, which will ultimately enhance the value proposition of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in the decades to come.”