By GRAHAM DUNBAR and TALES AZZONI
AP Sports Writers
GENEVA (AP) — Ukraine is set to join Spain and Portugal in a combined bid to host the 2030 World Cup.
A person familiar with the project told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Ukraine is being added to the Spain-Portugal bid. The revitalized bid, which has been in the works for more than three years, is scheduled to be announced on Wednesday at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement has not yet been made public.
Ukrainian soccer federation president Andriy Pavelko confirmed to the AP he will go to Switzerland for the announcement, but he declined to confirm details of the project.
The addition of Ukraine to the European bid was first reported by British newspaper The Times of London.
Ukraine co-hosted the 2012 European Championship in four stadiums, including in Donetsk and Kharkiv. Those cities in eastern Ukraine have been under occupation or bombardment since Russia invaded the country earlier this year.
FIFA has given no formal timetable to choose a host for the 48-team tournament in 2030, but the governing body has promised a decision in 2024. Voting would involve about 200 FIFA member federations.
The European bid is expected to face a South American candidacy with co-hosts Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. That bid has the emotional pull of being the centenary for Uruguay, which hosted — and won — the inaugural 1930 World Cup.
Saudi Arabia, which has worked to build close ties to FIFA and its president, Gianni Infantino, in recent years, has been preparing an unprecedented multi-continent bid potentially including Egypt and Greece. It is unclear how Greece would be approved by UEFA to take part in a rival bid.
Ukraine’s involvement in a World Cup bid would likely be supported by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who two weeks ago praised UEFA for supporting soccer in his country and suspending all Russian teams from international competitions, including the lucrative Champions League.
Soccer in Ukraine restarted in August after the national league was abandoned last season during the invasion. League games are being played in Kyiv and the western city of Lviv, with many interrupted by air raid alerts. Teams and officials have sheltered in bunkers until it was safe to resume games.
Ukraine’s national team and leading clubs are currently unable to host games in international competitions because of the security risk. Those games, including Shakhtar Donetsk playing in the Champions League, have mostly been played in neighboring Poland.
Pavelko is set to accompany the presidents of the Spanish and Portuguese soccer federations, Luis Rubiales and Fernando Gomes, at the news conference Wednesday. All three are members of the UEFA executive committee and both Rubiales and Gomes are vice presidents.
Launching the three-nation bid ahead of this year’s World Cup in Qatar allows the European colleagues to lobby their potential voters at the tournament.
Europe last hosted the World Cup in 2018 in Russia. The 2026 edition, expanding to 48 teams, will be played in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Azzoni reported from Madrid.
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