FIFA has given up on plans to expand the participant pool of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to 48 teams, rather than the usual 32 teams.
Rabat – Last year, FIFA President Gianni Infantino announced that plans to expand the World Cup to 48 teams could be brought forward from the initially scheduled completion in 2026; however, these plans may have been too ambitious and FIFA has announced that it will not be proceeding with the expansion.
“We have to see if it is possible, if it is feasible. We are discussing with our Qatari friends, we are discussing with our many other friends in the region and we hope that this can happen,” Infantino said.
“And, if not, we will have tried. We will have tried because we always have to try to do things in a better way.”
After further consideration, FIFA has concluded that there would not enough time to complete “a detailed assessment of the potential logistical impact” of expanding the tournament. As a result, the plans have been tossed aside and the tournament will proceed with the standard 32 team lineup.
“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,” Qatari World Cup organizers said in a statement.
“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.”
Despite Infantino’s early optimism, the ambitious plans to expand the tournament would have likely been plagued with difficulties from the beginning.
Aside from obvious time constraints, Qatar’s hostile relations with its neighbors would have also posed major problems to the plan’s implementation, as it would have been necessary for Qatar to share hosting duties with other nations in the region.
The ongoing blockade against Qatar by its neighbors Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the UAE would have likely caused major setbacks for the plans and could have jeopardized Qatar’s aims of hosting a smoothly run tournament.
With the plans canceled, the Qatari World Cup organizers may breathe again and proceed with preparations for 2022, while FIFA may use the coming years to properly reform FIFA tournament procedures and open the World Cup to more teams in 2026.