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Redefining global soccer: Saudi Arabia & the U.S. challenge UEFA's reign

How Saudi Arabia and the U.S. challenge European soccer dominance

MLS: FC Dallas at Real Salt Lake from Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. (Sep 4, 2021). Photo courtesy, Patrick Rouin-PR4

The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar united nations globally, attracting 1.5 billion viewers for the final match.

However, despite soccer being a source of immense pride and identity, its official governing institution, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), has headquarters in Europe, particularly Switzerland.

FIFA oversees international soccer development and promotions, ranging from rule changes to hosting rights for significant tournaments.

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European football leagues like Premier League (EPL), Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A, and Ligue 1 play a vital role in global soccer, generating substantial revenue for FIFA.

However, this dominance has faced criticism, particularly from African teams who boycotted the World Cup in 1966 due to lack of representation.

Saudi Arabia, through its vision 2030 initiative, aims to diversify its economy and bolster its global image through sports, including soccer.

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Investing in major European teams and hosting international tournaments, they strive to elevate their soccer league, the Saudi Professional League (SPL), into one of the world's most high-profile leagues. They have also successfully attracted top talent from around the world.

In the U.S., Major League Soccer (MLS) has made significant strides, attracting top talent and expanding its reach.

With investments from celebrity co-owners like David Beckham and a rapidly growing fan base, MLS is establishing itself as a major player in the soccer landscape.

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While UEFA's dominance has been unchallenged historically, the emergence of leagues like SPL and MLS is shifting the balance.

This challenge is amplified by investments from Saudi Arabia and the U.S. in European clubs, making the soccer landscape more competitive and diverse.

The growing influence of non-European players in the global soccer scene also presents opportunities and challenges.

FIFA must navigate this shift carefully to ensure equitable distribution of resources without creating fresh imbalances.

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