By Simon Evans
MIAMI (Reuters) – Qatari officials will meet with FIFA’s leadership in Miami on Friday as world football’s governing body discusses the possibility of expanding the 2022 World Cup and adding new host nations.
FIFA’s ruling council will discuss a feasibility study looking at a possible 48-team rather than the planned 32-team tournament for 2022 in Qatar.
Media reports have suggested that Oman and Kuwait are being considered as possible hosts for some of the games in an expanded tournament.
A spokesperson for Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the organising body for the 2022 World Cup, declined to comment on the feasibility study but said Qatar would be present at Friday’s meeting in Miami.
Speaking to BeInSport on Saturday, Nasser Al-Khater, the CEO of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, said any decision over changes would have to be made jointly by FIFA and the local organisers.
“We reiterate our assertion that the State of Qatar is preparing to host the tournament in all its 32 teams, and has not yet taken any decision to increase the number of teams participating in the tournament to 48 teams and did not take any decision to participate with other countries,” said Al-Khater.
“A further discussion will be had on the 14th & 15th March in the United States of America and will be decided on the basis of the results of the feasibility study conducted by the Supreme Committee.”
A deep political rift in the Gulf complicates the prospects of sharing the competition.
The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and non-Gulf state Egypt cut political, trade, and transport ties with Qatar in June 2017. The countries accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism, which it denies.
The 2022 World Cup is already unusual in that it will take place in the European winter rather than its usual June-July slot.
That means that European club leagues will be forced to rearrange their competitions in order to break during the Nov. 21-Dec. 18 tournament. Those dates would likely be stretched further with the addition of an extra 16 teams.
The 2026 World Cup in the United States, Canada and Mexico is already scheduled to be a 48-team tournament.
The council meeting will also discuss FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s plans for a new Global Nations League and expanded Club World Cup.
German Football Association (DFB) President Reinhard Grindel on Wednesday backed plans for an expanded Club World Cup, saying payments from it would benefit smaller leagues and teams.
A 24-team Club World Cup would be held every four years, and a global version of UEFA’s Nations League, with a possible new tournament at its conclusion, would both start in 2021 if approved.
Global players union FIFPro on Wednesday called on world football’s governing body to halt its plans for new competitions and a potential expansion of the 2022 World Cup until it has reviewed the game’s “crowded match calendar”.
(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Hugh Lawson)