UK and Ireland confirmed as Euro 2028 hosts – but who qualifies automatically?

With the UK and Ireland confirmed as Euro 2028 hosts, there is much talk about qualification paths as football comes home once again. Meanwhile, Europe’s best international sides will head to Turkey and Italy four years later for Euro 2032.

This announcement means we now know the host nations for all major international tournaments for the next decade after the 2030 World Cup was last week awarded to Spain, Portugal and Morocco, with a bit of help from Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina.

UK and Ireland confirmed as Euro 2028 hosts

Wembley Stadium hosted the conclusion of Euro 2020 only two summers ago, with Italy defeating England on penalties to get their hands on the trophy a year later than scheduled.

That tournament was spread across the continent, but Wembley is now expected to once again host the Final in 2028. The majority of the matches will be played in England, with five Premier League stadiums also set to host games.

Those will be the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the Etihad Stadium, Villa Park, St James’ Park and Everton’s new stadium on Bramley-Moore Dock, which is expected to be ready to host the Toffees during the 2024/25 season.

Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will also have one venue each. The largest Euro 2028 stadium other than Wembley will be Cardiff’s Principality Stadium with a capacity of 74,000 making it a strong candidate for a Semi-Final or potentially the opening match.

Dublin’s Aviva Stadium will also be eager to bring a high profile fixture across the Irish Sea while Belfast’s Casement Park and Glasgow’s Hampden Park will be the other stadiums to see action.

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Wembley hosted the Euro 2020 final, with Italy lifting the trophy after 120 hard-fought minutes – Photo by Icon sport

Will all five host nations qualify?

It appears very unlikely that all five hosts will be automatically awarded a place at Euro 2028, and UEFA has arguably already set a precedent with Euro 2020 where host nations still needed to qualify.

According to UEFA’s bid guidelines, “the automatic qualification of all the host teams cannot be guaranteed” in case of more than two joint-host associations. Ultimately, this suggests that (at most) two slots may be reserved for Euro 2028 host countries.

It seems likely that England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will all still take part in qualifying, with a potential for backdoor entry into the event for the highest ranked sides should less than two qualify automatically.

That process is yet to be formally approved though, and may complicate the qualifying procedure. An alternative solution would be to hold a separate five-team tournament amongst the host nations to sort out who qualifies as ‘hosts’.

To confuse matters further, England – the highest ranked and therefore most likely beneficiary of automatic qualification – have said they’d rather take part in qualifying as normal. The reason being that it would give them proper competitive match practice heading into the big event.

Euro 2032 heads to Turkey and Italy

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Ataturk Olympic Stadium, Istanbul. Paul Terry / Sportimage – Photo by Icon sport

Turkey had initially been keen to bid for Euro 2028 as outright hosts, as the main rival to the UK and Ireland offering. However, they have since opted to instead focus on staging the 2032 event along with Italy, a bid that has also been approved by UEFA today.

Given that tournament is still nine years away, the exact stadiums that will be used are not yet known with a shortlist of 20, which is expected to be whittled down to 10 venues by 2026. The games are likely to be evenly split amongst Italy and Turkey with five stadiums used in each country.

Italy has hosted the Euros twice previously in addition to the matches that took place in Rome during Euro 2020. This is really big news for Turkish football though, given that the country has never previously hosted a major international tournament.

Istanbul’s Ataturk Olympic Stadium, which hosted the 2023 UEFA Champions League Final, is a strong candidate to stage the Euro 2032 Final.

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