Southeast Asian nations could launch a joint bid to host the 2034 World Cup, Thailand’s foreign minister said Saturday, a bold play to bring the biggest sporting show on earth to a football-mad region for the first time.
The only Asian hosts of the World Cup so far have been Japan and South Korea, in 2002.
China is widely seen as the next Asian frontrunner to hold the tournament, with its massive sporting market, wealth and infrastructure to match.
But the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc, meeting in Bangkok this weekend, is keen to steal a march on the regional superpower.
“Government sectors think this can happen… 15 years from now,” Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai told reporters after talks with his counterparts.
A Thai Foreign ministry spokeswoman said “the idea will be proposed to the leaders” of ASEAN before the end of the summit on Sunday.
Since the inaugural World Cup in 1930, 17 countries have hosted the event, many of them in Europe and South America where millions of football-mad fans have descended to support their home country’s teams.
FIFA usually selects the country years in advance, and the 2026 event will go to the North American continent, with the United States, Canada and Mexico joint hosts.
But the years-long vetting process has been fraught with controversies in the past, as allegations of bribery and kickbacks have plagued FIFA over awarding the host position to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022.
Southeast Asia is home to tens of millions of passionate fans but it lacks high-level national teams, as well as the facilities to put on the massive event.
It is unclear which of the 10 members would host games or how FIFA would allocate the automatic qualification normally given to tournament hosts.