FIFA chiefs will decide on Friday whether to back an expansion of the 2022 World Cup to 48 teams but a final decision will only be taken at a meeting in Paris in June, sources said Thursday.
The FIFA Council meeting in Miami on Friday will give its verdict on an internal feasibility study which supported increasing the number of teams at the 2022 tournament in Qatar from 32 to 48,
However a final vote on increasing the number of teams at the football showpiece would only be taken at a full Congress meeting of football’s global governing body in June.
And any declaration of support by FIFA’s Council on Friday would acknowledge that expansion in 2022 can only take place if one or more countries on Qatar’s borders are able to host games, according to a document seen by AFP.
FIFA’s feasibility study into an expanded World Cup in 2022 said Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman and United Arab Emirates were potential options to host games in three years time.
But Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE would only be candidates if their governments ended a diplomatic blockade of Qatar launched in 2017, the study said.
A final decision on whether to expand the 2022 World Cup would be taken in Paris on June 6 after FIFA and Qatar jointly submit the names of potential co-host nations to the governing body’s Congress.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino is an enthusiastic supporter of expanding the 2022 World Cup, bringing forward an increase in the number of teams which had initially been planned for the 2026 finals staged in the United States, Mexico and Canada.
The increase in teams will see the tournament feature 80 matches instead of the 64 used in a traditional 32-team World Cup.
For the 2026 tournament in North America, 60 games will be held in the United States with Canada and Mexico getting 10 games each. A similar division is anticipated for 2022, with Qatar retaining the bulk of the matches.
A FIFA document on Thursday said an expanded 2022 tournament would use the same format planned for 2026, with the six regional confederations would receive the same number of qualifying slots allocated for the tournament in North America.