Soccer-Saudi Arabia launch bid to host the 2034 World Cup


Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Final - Argentina v France - Lusail Stadium, Lusail, Qatar - December 18, 2022 Argentina players celebrate with the trophy after winning the World Cup REUTERS/Lee Smith/ File Photo

(Reuters) - Saudi Arabia launched its campaign to host the 2034 soccer World Cup on Friday, a bid that is all but certain to succeed due to the absence of any other expressions of interest before FIFA's deadline late last year.

With Morocco, Portugal and Spain set to share the hosting of the 2030 tournament, global governing body FIFA limited the 2034 contest to bidders from the Asian and Oceania confederations.

Saudi Arabia would be the second country from the Gulf region to host the showpiece event, after neighbouring Qatar staged the 2022 finals.

The Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) said its "Growing. Together." World Cup campaign would showcase the way the nation was strengthening bonds with other countries through sport.

The Saudis have invested heavily in high-profile sports such as soccer, Formula One, boxing and golf over the last few years, leading critics to accuse the oil-rich kingdom of "sportswashing" its human rights record.

The country denies accusations of human rights abuses and says it protects its national security through its laws.

"Telling our football story to the world is of massive importance," SAFF President Yasser Al Misehal said in a statement.

"We've made unprecedented progress in both the men's and women's game, and our bid is an open invitation to the world to join us on this exciting journey."

The next step in the process is the submission of the full bid documents to FIFA in July, with the appointment of hosts for both the 2030 and 2034 World Cups set to be rubber stamped at a FIFA Congress towards the end of the year.

The next World Cup will take place in the United States, Mexico and Canada in 2026.

(Reporting by Shifa Jahan in Bengaluru; Editing by Nick Mulvenney and William Mallard)

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