World Cup format to stay the same: Fifa drops plan for 48-team tournament in Qatar 2022

Sports | 24 May 2019

Fifa shelved a proposed expansion of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to 48 teams, dealing a blow to the world football body's president Gianni Infantino.

The showpiece tournament in the Gulf state, to be held in November and December, will now be played with 32 nations taking part.

Fifa said it had abandoned the expansion plans "following a thorough and comprehensive consultation process" which led to the conclusion that "under the current circumstances such a proposal could not be made now".

The expansion was a pet project of Infantino, who pushed the idea despite the likely need for Qatar's neighbors, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, to put aside a two-year blockade and help to host an expanded tournament.

"The involvement of these countries in the organization of the tournament jointly with Qatar implies the lifting of this blockade, in particular the lifting of restrictions on the movement of people and goods," said a feasibility study submitted to last month's Fifa Congress in Miami.

The study also claimed that a Qatar World Cup with 48 teams would generate between US$300 million (HK$2.34 billion) to US$400 million of additional income.

The news comes after Europe's top football clubs said they would boycott an expanded 24-team Club World Cup - also backed by Infantino - which is planned to take place in June and July 2021, replacing the Confederations Cup.

Fifa said it had examined the possibility of Qatar hosting a 48-team tournament on its own, but a study "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".

The first World Cup to feature 48 nations will now be played in 2026, jointly hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Qatar said it "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."

The Qatar Supreme Committee added: "With just three and a half years to go until kick-off, Qatar remains as committed as ever to ensuring the 32-team World Cup in 2022 is one of the best tournaments ever and one that makes the entire Arab world proud."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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