Fifa study to decide fate of 48-team World Cup

MIAMI • Qatari officials will meet Fifa's leadership in Miami today as world football's governing body kick-starts the possibility of expanding the 2022 World Cup and adding new host nations.

Fifa's ruling council will discuss a feasibility study looking at a possible 48-team tournament rather than one planned for 32 teams in Qatar.

Media reports have suggested that Oman and Kuwait are being considered as possible hosts for some of the games in an expanded tournament.

A spokesman for Qatar's Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the organising body for the 2022 World Cup, declined to comment on the feasibility study but said Qatari officials would be present at the meeting in Miami.

Speaking to beIN Sport last Saturday, Nasser Al-Khater, chief executive of the 2022 World Cup, said any decision over changes would have to be made jointly by Fifa and the local organisers.

"We reiterate our assertion that the State of Qatar is preparing to host the tournament (with) all its 32 teams, and has not yet taken any decision to increase the number of teams participating in the tournament to 48 teams and did not take any decision to participate with other countries," said Al-Khater.

"A further discussion will be had on March 14 and 15 in the United States of America and will be decided on the basis of the results of the feasibility study conducted by the Supreme Committee."

The 2022 World Cup is already unusual in that it will take place during the European winter rather than its usual June-July slot.

Most major European leagues will be forced to rearrange their competition schedules in order to cater for the Nov 21-Dec 18 tournament.

Those dates would likely be stretched further with the addition of 16 teams.

The 2026 World Cup in the United States, Canada and Mexico is already scheduled to be a 48-team tournament.

The council meeting will also discuss Fifa president Gianni Infantino's plans for an expanded Club World Cup.

A 24-team Club World Cup would be held every four years and start in 2021 if approved.

Fifa has, however, backed away from a vote on a planned new 'Worldwide Nations League' after the governing body's task force reported that it was unable to find consensus on a format for the potential money-spinner.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2019, with the headline 'Fifa study to decide fate of 48-team World Cup'. Print Edition | Subscribe