FIFA: 48-Team Expansion 'Possible' for 2022 World Cup in Qatar

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistOctober 31, 2018

President of the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) Gianni Infantino arrives for a press conference on October 26, 2018, after a FIFA Council meeting at the Convention Center in Kigali. (Photo by Cyril NDEGEYA / AFP)        (Photo credit should read CYRIL NDEGEYA/AFP/Getty Images)
CYRIL NDEGEYA/Getty Images

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has said the expansion of the FIFA World Cup from 32 to 48 teams may be pushed forward to the tournament in Qatar in 2022. 

In January 2017 a vote was passed to include more teams in the tournament, and it was anticipated the 2026 World Cup, which is scheduled to be held in the United States, Mexico and Canada, would be the first to be a 48-team spectacle.

However, Infantino said the 2022 competition may yet be expanded, per BBC Sport:

"If it is possible, why not? We have to see if it is possible, if it is feasible. We are discussing with our Qatari friends, we are discussing with our many other friends in the region and we hope that this can happen.

"And, if not, we will have tried. We will have tried because we always have to try to do things in a better way."

PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 09: Detail of the FIFA World Cup Trophy during the UEFA Nations League A group one match between France and Netherlands at Stade de France on September 9, 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)
Marc Atkins/Getty Images

According to Tom Morgan of the Daily Telegraph, the prospect is something FIFA has been considering for a while.

"FIFA has been exploring the idea of fast-tracking the World Cup increase for months," it's noted. "After football's world governing body voted to expand the tournament from 32 teams for 2026, the South American confederation CONMEBOL asked for it to be brought forward."

Infantino went on to say that he also wants to make the Club World Cup a bigger event, saying he is keen for the tournament to become a "real competition."

Plans to make an annual tournament for the world's biggest club sides were opposed by European football's governing body UEFA last week, per Sam Wallace of the Daily Telegraph.

The current format for the World Cup, as we saw in the summer in Russia, sees 32 teams split into eight groups, with the top two in each pool qualifying for a 16-team bracket. An extra 16 nations being introduced would trigger a revamp of the setup.

Per Martin Belam of the Guardian, the new format will see 16 groups of three producing two teams for a 32-side bracket.

During the summer's competition, Ronan Murphy of Goal said he was sceptical about the idea of making the World Cup bigger:

Football writer Tim Vickery also commented that the new setup would potentially rob viewers of some excitement in the group stages: 

Per Morgan, Infantino is up for re-election in 2019 and has said he will invest fresh money into the game in the coming months.

The expansion will be the first in the World Cup since 1998. In the United States in 1994 there were only 24 teams competing for the title.

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