Morocco is set to join Spain and Portugal in a bid to host the FIFA 2030 Men’s World Cup, apparently replacing Ukraine in a three-way alliance with the two European nations.
Ukraine said it would team up with Spain and Portugal in a joint bid last October, but Morocco’s announcement suggests it will no longer be part of the process. CNN has reached out to all the nations involved.
Morocco’s sport minister Chakib Benmoussa unveiled details of the North African nation’s bid Tuesday, citing a letter from Morocco’s King Mohammed VI.
“I would like to announce that the Kingdom of Morocco has decided, together with Spain and Portugal, to present a joint bid to host the 2030 World Cup,” he read from the letter, according to Reuters.
Speaking at the Confederation of African Football President’s Outstanding Achievement Awards in Kigali, Rwanda, Benmoussa called the bid “unprecedented in football history.”
It will “bring together Africa and Europe, the northern and southern Mediterranean, and the African, Arab and Euro-Mediterranean worlds,” he said. “It will also bring out the best in all of us – in effect a combination of genius, creativity, experience and means.”
The new alliance adds another transcontinental bid to the process, alongside a three-way deal between Greece, Saudi Arabia and Egypt and a separate joint bid from Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay and Chile.
Countries teaming up to hold the World Cup is not unprecedented, with Canada, America and Mexico due to co-host the World Cup in 2026. Japan also collaborated with South Korea in staging the 2002 chapter.
Morocco’s announcement comes on the heels of its historic performance at the 2022 World Cup.
The Atlas Lions, the nickname of Morocco’s national team, defeated both Spain and Portugal in the knockout stages in Qatar on their way to becoming the first African and first Arab country to ever reach a World Cup semifinal.
The World Cup’s new 104 game format
Meanwhile, the 2026 men’s FIFA World Cup tournament will have a format of 12 groups of four teams, the soccer’s world governing body announced Tuesday.
The FIFA Council unanimously approved the format change to 12 groups of four instead of the 16 groups of three to lessen “the risk of collusion and ensure that all the teams play a minimum of three matches, while providing balanced rest time between competing teams.”
The top two teams from each group and the eight best third-place teams will advance to the round of 32. The move expands the competition from its projected 80 matches to a record 104.
The 2026 men’s World Cup will be the first edition to have 48 teams and to be played in three countries – Canada, Mexico and the United States.
Tuesday’s announcement comes at a time when players are increasingly being tasked with playing more games at the top level.
Following the 2022 World Cup, Manchester United defender Raphaël Varane retired from international soccer citing unprecedented workload demands.
“The very highest level is like a washing machine, you play all the time and you never stop,” the former France international told Canal+.
The 29-year-old continued: “We have overloaded schedules and play non-stop. Right now, I feel like I’m suffocating and that the player is gobbling up the man.”
In a recent report produced by FIFPRO, 64 players who featured at the 2022 World Cup voiced their their opinion on increased workload.
Over half (53%) reported an injury or felt more likely to suffer an injury as a result of the congested calendar, while 44% said they experienced extreme or increased physical fatigue compared to how they would feel in January during a normal season.
CNN’s Chris Lau and Thomas Schlachter contributed to this report.