Washington, Mar 16: The FIFA Council on Friday decided to work with Qatar to explore the expansion of the 2022 World Cup roster from 32 to 48 teams.
The world soccer governing body said Friday on its website that after being presented with a thorough feasibility study on the increase of the number of teams from 32 to 48 at the 2022 World Cup during its council held in Miami, FIFA acknowledged the study's conclusion that expanding the tournament to 48 teams was feasible, provided that neighbouring countries host some matches. Earlier reports said Qatar needs at least one country to host some matches. However, the FIFA Council stressed that Qatar is still the main host country.
According to FIFA, it will "explore this possibility further and analyse if a joint expansion proposal that meets all the necessary requirements can be submitted to the FIFA Council and the FIFA Congress in June".
The 69th FIFA Congress, which is set to open in Paris on June 5, will make the final call on the expansion.
"We will work with FIFA to determine whether or not a viable operating model does exist and importantly, whether it is in the best interests for soccer and for the tournament, and for Qatar as the host nation. Until we reach that conclusion, we will continue to work toward hosting a 32-team World Cup in 2022 hosted in Qatar," the Qatar 2022 organising committee said in a statement released on Friday.
In Zurich on January 10, 2017, the FIFA Council unanimously decided in favor of expanding the FIFA World Cup to a 48-team competition as of the 2026 edition. At the FIFA Congress in Moscow in June, 2018, the United States, Canada and Mexico won the bid to co-host the 2026 World Cup.
In Miami on Friday, the FIFA Council also decided to introduce the VAR system to the FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019, which will run from June 7 to July 7. Despite European opposition, FIFA decided to stage a "pilot edition" of the 24-team Club World Cup between June and July 2021. There were 25 votes in favor of and seven against the proposal.
The quadrennial club tournament will replace the current Club World Cup, a seven-team event played each December. In the 2021 pilot edition, the 24 teams will be split into eight groups of three teams each, with the group winners to qualify for the quarterfinals in a knockout format. (UNI-XINHUA)