China will bid for the 2030 World Cup and the official announcement will come in May 2019 with the visit of Fifa president Gianni Infantino and the Fifa Legends on Tour, a source told the South China Morning Post.
It has long been speculated that China would bid for the 2030 edition of the tournament, the centenary tournament 100 years after the first World Cup, and the impending return of the Fifa president to the country adds weight to the speculation.
The source said the 2030 bid would likely be a test run ahead of China bidding for and expecting to win the right to host the 2034 World Cup.
One potential spanner in the works is Shanghai’s rumoured bid to host the Summer Olympic Games, with a target date of 2032.
Based on the football tournament at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Shanghai would play an integral part of any World Cup bid.
The city has one of China’s only football-specific stadiums in Hongkou Stadium, the home of Shanghai Shenhua, while newly crowned Chinese Super League champions Shanghai SIPG will soon move into a football-specific stadium of their own.
Hosting the Olympics and World Cup in quick succession was no obstacle for Brazil, who held the 2014 World Cup and the Rio Olympics two years later.
China’s bid for a World Cup has been a long time coming.
It was 2011 when President Xi Jinping announced his goal to host the World Cup, something he reiterated to Infantino when the pair met in Beijing last year.
“The Chinese President expressed his hope, and the dream of many Chinese people, that the country would have the opportunity to host a Fifa Men’s World Cup at some stage in the future,” said a statement released after the meeting.
Last November, China coach Marcello Lippi told the Chengdu Business Daily that China would bid for the 24th tournament.
“What I also want to tell you is that the Chinese FA will bid for the 2030 World Cup,” Lippi told the newspaper after his side played a friendly in Chongqing, Sichuan province.
Lippi had been brought in to guide China through qualification for 2018 but failed.
China qualified for its only World Cup appearance in 2002 when the tournament took place in Japan and South Korea.
That is the only time the World Cup has been held in Asia, although 2022 hosts Qatar are members of the Asian Football Confederation.
China may have been missing from the teams qualified for the most recent World Cup in Russia this summer but Chinese fans and companies were there in great numbers.
Wanda Group’s deal as one of Fifa’s seven official partners runs until 2030.
The 2026 edition of the tournament will be hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico.