Expanded World Cup (48 teams) could come as soon as 2022

When FIFA awarded Qatar the hosting rights to the 2022 World Cup in December 2010, the plan was the tournament would be played in the summer with 32 teams. Business as usual.

But it quickly became clear it was unfeasible to play the World Cup in the summer in Qatar, where average daytime highs in the summer exceed 120 degrees, so the tournament is now planned for Nov. 21-Dec. 18, 2022.

Now, it looks like the 2022 World Cup might be expanded to 48 teams, four years ahead of schedule.

Speaking at the Asian Football Confederation's annual congress on Wednesday, FIFA president Gianni Infantino reiterated that soccer's governing body is looking into the possibility of increasing the number of teams at the 2022 World Cup and to do that sharing the hosting rights with other nations in the Gulf region.

That expanded field was one of the reasons FIFA went with co-hosts USA, Canada and Mexico over Morocco for the 2026 World Cup rights, which were decided in June 13.

Getting Qatar's neighbors to join together may prove trickier. The diplomatic dispute between Qatar on the one hand and a coalition led by Saudi Arabia on the other hand has dragged on into a third year and come to be known as the Second Arab Cold War.

Infantino said FIFA was looking into an expanded tournament as soon as 2022.

"We have to see if it is possible, if it is feasible," he said. "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."

Politics -- FIFA politics -- play into Infantino's push for an expanded World Cup. Infantino is up for re-election in 2019. More berths mean greater possibilities of participating for more federations, which makes for more happy federations.

Infantino said Asia -- a swing vote in FIFA politics -- would get 8.5 teams (up from the current allotment of 4.5 in a 32-team tournament).

If you're wondering, Concacaf would get a minimum of six teams in an expanded World Cup. Likely three of those spots will go the USA, Canada and Mexico, the co-hosts, in 2026.

For a 48-team 2022 World Cup, six teams would mean the end of the Hexagonal -- the six-team final round of Concacaf qualifying -- as we have known it for the last two decades.

2 comments about "Expanded World Cup (48 teams) could come as soon as 2022".
  1. beautiful game, October 31, 2018 at 8:21 p.m.

    Infantino ready to ca$h in more at WC 2022 with additional teams and expanded regional venue. Lessons learned from Crooked Blatter. "Discu$$ing with our regional friend$."

  2. Wooden Ships, November 1, 2018 at 12:59 a.m.


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