FIFA has confirmed it will formally discuss expanding the 2022 World Cup in Qatar from 32 to 48 teams at its pre-Russia 2018 congress on June 13 in Moscow.
FIFA’s council unanimously approved a plan to add 16 more teams to the World Cup from 2026 onwards in January 2017 but the federation’s president Gianni Infantino is keen to bring that expansion forward.
Infantino attended a meeting of the South American confederation CONMEBOL in Buenos Aires last month, when the idea to expand Qatar 2022 first emerged.
Speaking to reporters at that meeting, Infantino described the South American proposal as “very interesting” and worthy of serious study, and restated his commitment to enlarging the World Cup “for the development of football”.
Now, five weeks later, the agenda for the 68th FIFA Congress at Moscow’s Expocentre has been published and it lists, under item 12.2, the discussion of the CONMEBOL proposal “to carry out a feasibility study on the increase of the number of teams from 32 to 48 in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar”.
CONMEBOL’s interest in the matter is obvious, as expansion means six of its 10 members will be guaranteed World Cup slots, and expanding the World Cup is a key part of Infantino’s strategy for re-election as FIFA president next year.
The Qataris, however, are understood to be strongly opposed to the plan, as it will increase the pressure they are already under to share the tournament with neighbouring states.