FIFA bins 48-team 2022 World Cup plans
Gianni Infantino, the President of soccer’s global governing body, has made no secret of his desire to bring forward plans to grow the international tournament from 32 teams, and has been jointly exploring the possibility with Qatar since March, when a FIFA feasibility study found that the competition could be expanded by using at least one of the Gulf nation’s neighbours as a co-host.
However, FIFA said that after a ‘thorough and comprehensive consultation process’, it was deemed that the change ‘could not be made now’.
The governing body added that it had also explored the feasibility of Qatar hosting a 48-team tournament on its own, but deemed that there was not enough time ‘for a detailed assessment of the potential logistical impact’ on the host nation.
In a statement, Qatari World Cup organisers said: ‘Qatar had always been open to the idea of an expanded tournament in 2022 had a viable operating model been found and had all parties concluded that an expanded 48-team edition was in the best interest of football and Qatar as the host nation.
‘With just three and a half years to go until kick off, Qatar remains as committed as ever to ensuring the 32-team FIFA World Cup in 2022 is one of the best tournaments ever and one that makes the entire Arab world proud.’
Finding a co-host was always likely to be complicated given the ongoing dispute between Qatar and several of its neighbours. A FIFA internal report had already determined that the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Saudi Arabia could not be used as co-hosts unless they restored diplomatic, transport and trade ties with Qatar, which left Oman and Kuwait as the alternatives.
Infantino held talks with officials in Kuwait in April after Oman ruled itself out of being a co-host, but FIFA decided it would not be able to upgrade the country’s facilities in time for 2022.
Infantino will now have to wait until 2026 for the first 48-team World Cup, which is being held across the US, Canada and Mexico.
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