Football World Cup: 'When not if' New Zealand hosts men's tournament after 2023 success

Already an unquestionable success, the Women's Football World Cup has paved the way for Aotearoa to host the men's edition of the tournament, New Zealand Football chief executive Andrew Pragnell says.

As the last of three women's World Cups held in New Zealand - after cricket and rugby were both held in 2022 - this year's tournament has captured the imagination of both host nations.

The performances of the Football Ferns, who became the first New Zealand side to win a game at a senior World Cup, and first-time semi-finalists Australia, have seen records shattered.

The Football Ferns celebrate.
The Football Ferns celebrate. Photo credit: Photosport

An average of more than 31,000 fans have attended each match across both sides of the Tasman, while television viewership is approaching two billion with two semi-finals and a final still to come. 

On Tuesday, Spain face Sweden at Eden Park in the first of those semi-finals, in a clash expected to be the most-watched sporting event ever held on New Zealand soil.

With such a success story, Pragnell believes New Zealand and Australia as co-hosts have shown that they are capable of hosting the Men's World Cup, second only to the Olympic Games as the biggest sporting event in the world. 

"I think, in terms of a men's World Cup, it's not 'if' - it's 'when'," Pragnell told Newshub.

"It's about timing, it's about making sure we have the right partners across the Asia-Pacific regions.

"But absolutely. As FIFA have said, this is the biggest and greatest Women's World Cup they've ever hosted.

"It's only natural we would host a men's [World Cup] at some point in time."

As far as hosting the men's World Cup goes, the 2026 iteration will be shared by USA, Canada and Mexico.

Hosting rights for the 2030 tournament are still to be decided, while Saudi Arabia have been tipped to place a bid.

Albeit with the caveat of being the first iteration of the first 32-team edition of the Women's World Cup, the total attendance number of 1,733,578 attendees already makes it the largest in history, bettering the 1,363,506 set in Canada in 2015.

For New Zealand, the tournament's opening victory over Norway will arguably go down in folklore among the most significant moments in Kiwi sport. 

And for Pragnell, the tournament has ticked every box for New Zealand Football. 

"It's been incredible. We're absolutely rapt," added Pragnell. "The entire country has embraced this tournament.

"We've had stadiums full of people engaging. We've had tourists spending money.

"The entire football community has been energised by this tournament."

Join Newshub at 8pm Tuesday for live updates of the Spain v Sweden Football World Cup semi-final

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