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FIFA picks Qatar, Morocco to host 5 youth World Cups as Middle East, North Africa influence grows

GENEVA (AP) — FIFA has awarded 10 editions of its Under-17 World Cups to be hosted by Qatar and Morocco, starting in 2025 when they become annual tournaments.

Qatar will hold each 48-team edition of the men’s Under-17 World Cup from 2025 through 2029. In the same period, Morocco will hold five editions of the women’s Under-17 World Cup for 24 teams.

The decisions of FIFA ruling council on Thursday reflect the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region's growing influence in soccer.

Qatar hosted the men’s 2022 World Cup and Morocco will be one of six co-hosts of the 2030 edition. Both countries have elected delegates on the 37-member FIFA Council that also includes an official from Saudi Arabia, which is expected to host the men's World Cup in 2034.

FIFA did not identify rival bidders for the hosting decisions which it said followed “a global call for expressions of interest in hosting both competitions.” They are intended to use existing venues “in the interest of tournament efficiencies and sustainability.”

The Under-17 World Cups have been biennial and FIFA wants annual tournaments to both ensure no age group of players misses out and accelerate development of national teams worldwide.

The 2024 edition of the women’s tournament will be hosted by the Dominican Republic starting on Oct. 16. Indonesia hosted the previous men’s Under-17 edition last year.

FIFA gave Indonesia that tournament soon after the Muslim-majority nation declined at short notice to host the men’s Under-20 World Cup that was due to kick off last May because Israel had qualified. Argentina hosted instead and Israel reached the semifinals.

FIFA said its council also agreed Thursday to propose measures to “tackle this unacceptable scourge” of racism in soccer when 211 member federations meet May 17 in Bangkok, Thailand.

That congress meeting “will mark a milestone in FIFA’s ongoing efforts to fight racism with new and stricter measures to be applied worldwide in cooperation with all our member associations and the confederations,” the soccer body’s president, Gianni Infantino, said in a statement.

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