MIAMI: Fifa moved a step closer last night to expanding the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to 48 teams and hopes to confirm the plans in June if a suitable co-host can be found.
An internal feasibility study supporting the expansion, which is being strongly pushed by president Gianni Infantino, was given full backing by the Fifa council in Miami.
A final decision will now be taken in Paris on June 6 after Fifa and Qatar jointly submit the names of potential co-host nations to the governing body’s Congress.
Infantino, who also confirmed a new Club World Cup with 24 teams will begin in 2021 to replace the Confederations Cup, told a press conference: “You have in front of you a happy Fifa president.
“I am always happy but especially today because we have taken some important decisions.
“We came to conclusion, yes it’s feasible to move from 32 to 48 teams at the World Cup provided certain conditions are met.
“Since we decided in January 2017 that we should increase teams in 2026, and following a request from the 10 South American associations whether it is feasible to do this for 2022.
“We have the duty to look into it, 90 percent are in favour of an increase but it’s not as easy as that. We have to analyse matters carefully and we are working closely with Qatar.”
The move away from the traditional 32 teams which will see 80 matches instead of 64 - the notion was originally slated to come into effect for the 2026 tournament in North America - means one or more other countries will be asked to help Qatar stage the shortened 28-day event which is scheduled to kick off in November 2022.
For the 2026 tournament in North America, 60 games will be held in the US with Canada and Mexico getting 10 games each.
A similar division is anticipated for 2022, with Qatar retaining the bulk of the matches while Infantino moved to allay fears the increase in teams could dilute the quality of the tournament.