Fifa President Gianni Infantino addressed the media following the Fifa Council meeting in Miami on Friday. In his remarks, Infantino made clear his desire to see an expanded 48-team World Cup take place in 2022, if possible. Fifa has already approved the expansion of the World Cup to 48 teams for 2026.
Qatar, which was awarded hosting rights for a 32-team World Cup in 2022, has previously expressed a willingness to work with Fifa on the possible implementation of a 48-team tournament incorporating its neighbors as co-hosts. The Fifa Council approved on Friday the idea of working with Qatar on a potential 48-team World Cup after seeing the results of a feasibility study.
“We have shown the council the feasibility study in which we conclude: yes, it is possible to expand the 2022 World Cup – provided that some conditions are met,” Infantino said Friday.
Infantino defended the idea of expanding the World Cup by rattling off the names of prominent footballing nations who did not qualify in 2018 including Italy, the Netherlands, United States, Chile and Cameroon. He also cited the difficulty of qualifying from Asia for instance, where 47 member associations are guaranteed only four spots – which are usually taken by regional powers Japan, South Korea, Iran and Australia.
“We will move to the next stage, we will explore the possibility of who could potentially be hosting some of the games in the Gulf regions,” Infantino said.
Infantino also stressed that he is not naïve to the politics which divide Qatar and some of its neighbors such as the Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, but that football could help “bridge political gaps”, in the world. However, it’s unlikely that Qatar, which is currently suffering from a blockade by the three aforementioned nations, could jointly host a competition with them. It’s more likely Kuwait and Oman, which enjoy better relationships with Qatar, would be tapped to help host a 48-team World Cup.
Fifa will make a final decision on a 48-team World Cup for 2022 in June at the organisation’s annual congress.