Football Events You Cannot Afford to Miss in the Middle East in 2024


Football fans in the Middle East have plenty to look forward to in 2024, with the upcoming calendar packed with exciting action at club and international level.

The Saudi Pro League and CAF Champions League are the standout competitions in club football, while qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup feature Several Arab nations.

Read on as we look at what is in store in Middle East football next year, starting with a look at the qualification process for the 2026 World Cup in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

2026 World Cup Qualifiers

Middle Eastern nations play in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) section of the qualifiers, where there are eight direct qualification spots and an additional place via inter-confederation play-offs available.

The AFC qualification process involves five rounds, with most of the matches in the second and third rounds scheduled to be played during 2024.

Online bookmakers rate Saudi Arabia and Qatar as the Middle East teams most likely to progress to the final tournament in 2026, with each one installed as the top seeds in their respective groups.

The latest sports betting in the Arab world ranks Saudi Arabia as the overwhelming favorite to win Group G ahead of Jordan, Tajikistan, and Pakistan.

Qatar head the betting in Group A after being paired with India, Kuwait and Afghanistan, and should have little difficulty topping their section. The United Arab Emirates will also fancy their chances of progressing after being drawn in Group H with Bahrain, Yemen and Nepal.

The second round gets underway with two matchdays in November 2023 and will conclude with four further rounds of fixtures in March and June next year.

The third round gets underway in September 2024 and runs until June 2025. The fourth and fifth rounds will be staged in October and November of that year.

Saudi Pro League

The Saudi Pro League has garnered plenty of headlines globally over the past year, with sizeable investment in overseas players raising the profile of the competition.

The league started the ball rolling last December by signing Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo following his acrimonious exit from Premier League club Manchester United.


Saudi clubs stepped things up during the summer transfer window, shelling out around $1 billion to sign numerous players from the top leagues in Europe.

Karim Benzema, Neymar, and Sadio Mane are among the top stars who jumped ship from Europe to join the Middle East football gravy train.

Their presence in the region has significantly increased interest in the Saudi Pro League and generated additional traffic on online sportsbooks that cover the competition.

The bookies rates Al-Hilal as the favourites to win the title and their talented squad will likely be tough to beat as the season progresses. They have lost Neymar to injury but still boast a plethora of other high-profile names.

Ronaldo will undoubtedly be pulling out all the stops to prevent Al-Hilal from claiming the top spot by continuing his excellent goalscoring form for Al-Nassr.

AFC Champions League

The investment in the Saudi Pro League has had a knock-on effect on the AFC Champions League, with the competition now attracting more global interest than in the past.

Two Saudi teams – Al-Nassr and Al-Ittihad – have both been going well during the group stage and are on track to progress to the round of 16.


However, they are unlikely to have things their own way, with teams from several other nations perfectly capable of lifting the prestigious trophy.

They include South Korea’s Pohang Steelers, who have qualified for the last-16 despite being drawn in the same group as reigning champions Urawa Red Diamonds.

The Steelers have won this tournament on three previous occasions (1996/97, 1997/98 & 2009) and finished runners-up in 2021, so it would be unwise to underestimate their chances.

Japanese side Yokohama F Marinos could also be in the mix, although they still have work to do to ensure they progress out of Group G.

A victory over South Korean outfit Incheon United in their next outing will send them through to the knockout stage of the competition, which starts in February.