World Cup weather: How it has impacted play throughout the years

Hot temperatures in Qatar meant moving games from the summer to the fall

Qatar's goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham blocks a shot from Memphis Depay of the Netherlands during a World Cup group A soccer match at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek) (Petr David Josek, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The World Cup takes place... and this might surprise you... all over the world! 😉 So, that means that we’ve seen quite a variety of weather through the years as the venue has changed.

So, which World Cups have seen the worst weather? Well, it’s a matter of perspective.

Running around in extreme heat is not ideal for soccer, so the last two World Cups have been pretty tough. In 2014, in Manaus, Brazil, temperatures neared 90°, while humidity soared. It meant that teams took mandatory water breaks.

This go-round, it could have been worse in Qatar, considering it’s one of the hottest countries in the world. It’s also the first time the tournament has been held in the Arab world. But, FIFA accounted for that by moving the games from summer to November and December, when temperatures are more likely to be in the 70s and 80s. In addition, all games are being played during the local evening hours.

Meantime, while half of the world is dealing with summer in June and July (when the tournament is usually held), the Southern Hemisphere is experiencing winter. So, when the World Cup was held in South Africa in 2010, temperatures were actually quite chilly (50s). The coldest World Cup match of all time was played in 2010 between Brazil and North Korea, when temperatures dipped to 30°. The same can be said for when it was held in Argentina in 1978, and some wintry weather was reported. The first-ever World Cup was held in Uruguay in 1930 and some wintry weather was reported there, too.

The United States faced heavy rain when playing Germany in 2014 in Brazil. The Americans would lose 0-1. But, like in many other sports, save lightning, most games will not be called for weather. Of course, many Americans remember ‘Snow Classico’ in Denver in 2013. It wasn’t a World Cup game, but it was a World Cup qualifier. Heavy snow covered the pitch as the United States took on Costa Rica in a high stakes showdown. The Americans would win 1-0, but the Costa Ricans lodged a protest, saying the game should not have be played in those conditions.

Weather is consideration when host sites are chosen and mostly Mother Nature has cooperated when it comes to the outdoor sport. The next World Cup will be held in Canada, Mexico, and the United States in June 2026. That means it’ll likely be pretty hot!


About the Author:

Justin Horne is a meteorologist and reporter for KSAT 12 News. When severe weather rolls through, Justin will hop in the KSAT 12 Storm Chaser to safely bring you the latest weather conditions from across South Texas. On top of delivering an accurate forecast, Justin often reports on one of his favorite topics: Texas history.