August 17, 2019

FIFA Drops Plan for 48-Team World Cup in 2022

FIFA Drops Plan for 48-Team World Cup in 2022


FIFA has abandoned plans championed by its president to expand the 2022 World Cup to include 48 teams, concluding that it could not host the larger tournament in Qatar or come up with a solution to share the event with the tiny gulf emirate’s neighbors.

The expansion proposal, proposed and pressed by FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino, might have proved to be a popular one if presented for a vote by FIFA’s member associations at the organization’s annual congress next month in Paris. But an ongoing political and economic blockade of Qatar by some of its neighbors, most notably Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, created intractable practical obstacles that could not be overcome.

The decision ensures that the first 48-team World Cup will be the one awarded to the United States, Mexico and Canada in 2026. It also will come as a relief to Qatar, which has invested billions in infrastructure and untold amounts of national pride in hosting the first World Cup in the Arab world.

“In line with the conclusions of the feasibility study approved by the FIFA Council at its last meeting, FIFA and Qatar have jointly explored all possibilities to increase the number of participant teams from 32 to 48 teams by involving neighboring countries at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022,” FIFA said in a statement. “Following a thorough and comprehensive consultation process with the involvement of all the relevant stakeholders, it was concluded that under the current circumstances such a proposal could not be made now.”

FIFA said it discussed with Qatar if a 48-team tournament was feasible if certain FIFA requirements were lowered, but that both parties concluded an analysis of the impact of that decision could not be concluded in time for a vote in Paris. An internal analysis by FIFA earlier this year had concluded that Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. and Bahrain — three of the countries taking part in the blockade of Qatar — could not be considered as potential co-hosts as long as the two-year-old blockade remained in effect.

The 2022 World Cup “will therefore remain as originally planned with 32 teams,” FIFA said, “and no proposal will be submitted at the next FIFA Congress on 5 June.”

Qatar, which has prepared for a 32-team tournament in eight stadiums since winning the hosting rights in 2010, had made clear its reservations about its ability to accommodate an expanded event, and its gulf neighbor Oman, one of two neutral countries that FIFA had pinned its hopes on to absorb some of the added matches required by a 48-team field, said recently that it could not prepare itself in time.

FIFA’s deputy secretary general, Zvonimir Boban, said as recently as Tuesday that coming up with a solution was all but impossible given the requirements, including those governing laws, needed to add additional hosts for the tournament.

The tournament, moved to November from its usual summer window to avoid the scorching gulf heat, also would have needed to fit inside a contracted 28-day schedule to meet the demands of Europe’s biggest leagues and clubs.



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