Fifa abandons plans to expand 2022 World Cup in Qatar and to play games in neighbouring countries
Fifa have ended their plans to expand the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to 48 teams and play some games in neighbouring countries.
The world governing body has announced that the 2022 tournament will remain at 32 teams.
In a statement they confirmed the news: “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 neighbouring countries at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
“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.
“Additionally, FIFA and Qatar have once again explored the feasibility of Qatar hosting a 48-team tournament by in particular lowering certain key FIFA requirements.
“A joint analysis, in this respect, concluded that due to the advanced stage of preparations and the need for a detailed assessment of the potential logistical impact on the host country, more time would be required and a decision could not be taken before the deadline of June. It was therefore decided not to further pursue this option.
“The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 will therefore remain as originally planned with 32 teams and no proposal will be submitted at the next FIFA Congress on 5 June.”
Infantino had initially been one of the major driving forces behind the plans to increase the number of teams participating in the tournament, and was as equally as keen for matches to be played elsewhere in the Middle East, but the 49-year-old has now reluctantly had to accept that it would be too challenging to do so.
The 2022 World Cup had already been shortened to 28 days as it is being played in November and December, and the expansion plan would have seen up to six matches being played a day, with as little as 48 hours between games for some sides in the group stage.
But, as previously decided, the competition will rise to 48 teams for the 2026 World Cup being played in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
The format for the 48-team World Cup in 2026 will be 16 groups of three teams, with only the bottom side in each group being knocked out.
There will then be a knockout stage beginning with a round of 32. It will mean a total of 80 matches being played in the tournament compared to 64 under the existing format.