Dubai has launched a competition to design a 60,000-seater stadium that will be built in the emirate to stage matches at soccer's 2019 Asian Cup, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in March awarded hosting rights for the 24-nation tournament to the United Arab Emirates, rejecting a rival proposal from Iran.
Matches are expected to be played in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi, Dubai and oasis town Al Ain. Each will likely use two stadiums, with AFC regulations stating the hosts must employ at least six for the tournament.
Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), which did not respond to requests for comment, has the remit from the emirate's government to build the soccer stadium, the sources said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the design competition has not been made public.
Some design bids have already been submitted to the RTA, the sources said, with a mixture of architects, engineers and consultants collaborating on individual submissions.
The stadium will be built in or near Dubai Sports City, which is already home to a 25,000-capacity cricket stadium that is also expected to host matches at the 2019 soccer tournament.
The award of the Asian Cup re-invigorated Dubai's plans to build a large-capacity sports venue. In 2007, it was awarded a design and construction contract for two stadiums - a 60,000-capacity outdoor venue and a 10,000 capacity indoor venue - that at the time was valued at AED830 million ($225.97 million).
Both were slated to be completed in 2009, but were mothballed following Dubai's real estate crash and debt crisis.
Abu Dhabi's Zayed Sports City, which staged the final when the UAE last hosted the Asian Cup in 1996, has a capacity of 43,000, while the capital's other main ground is the 42,000-seater Mohammed bin Zayed stadium.
Either could host the latter stages of the 2019 tournament - the minimum ground capacity for the semi-finals, finals and opening match is 40,000, an AFC spokesman said.
Group games must be played in venues holding at least 20,000 spectators, although these requirements may change, the spokesman added.
Abu Dhabi has not revealed its stadium plans for 2019. This uncertainty is a probable reason for Dubai's secrecy over its new stadium, with protocol dictating Abu Dhabi - the dominant power in the UAE - makes public its intentions regarding 2019 before Dubai does.
The UAE will also stage the 2017 and 2018 editions of the FIFA Club World Cup.