- Associated Press - Thursday, January 19, 2017

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) - Soccer fans will face “a challenge” when traveling between games at the continent-wide 2020 European Championship, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin said Thursday.

The tournament will be held in 13 cities across Europe to mark its 60th anniversary, ranging from the Irish capital of Dublin in the west to the Azerbaijani city of Baku in the east.

“Of course it’s a challenge if fans have to travel thousands and thousands and thousands of kilometers across Europe,” Ceferin said at a ceremony in the Russian host city of St. Petersburg. “It can be very interesting but it can be a big challenge even for a big organization such as UEFA. I think everything will be fine, I’m sure.”

UEFA will pair cities for the group stage to try to reduce travel distances for fans, though the exact system won’t be revealed until later.

Having 13 host countries also means everyone has to go through qualifying. In the past, hosts qualified automatically, even when the tournament was held in two countries at once, such as Poland and Ukraine in 2012.

Ceferin also said he was dedicated to ensuring Europe would receive more qualifying spots when FIFA expands the World Cup to 48 teams from 2026, up from its current allocation of 13.

“We will fight for as much possible,” he said. “The best quality of football in the world is in Europe.”

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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