The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar will not be expanding to 48 teams.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino strongly supported efforts to grow the tournament from 32 teams and an internal feasibility study supporting the expansion was given full backing by the FIFA Council during its meeting in Miami in March.
Increasing the number of teams, however, would have required Qatar to involve neighboring countries in hosting the tournament.
Qatar will have eight stadiums for 64 matches. Twelve would be needed for 48 teams and 80 matches.
FIFA, in a statement, said “following a thorough and comprehensive consultation process with the involvement of all the relevant stakeholders, it was concluded that under the current circumstances such a proposal could not be made now.”
FIFA added that while it was willing to lower certain key requirements to help make a 48-team tournament in 2022 a reality, a joint analysis “concluded that due to the advanced stage of preparations and the need for a detailed assessment of the potential logistical impact on the host country, more time would be required and a decision could not be taken before the deadline of June. It was therefore decided not to further pursue this option”.
A complex political situation in the Gulf region limited the options for potential partners for Qatar.
In June 2017, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt broke political, commercial and transport relations with Qatar, accusing the country of supporting violent groups in the region. Doha denies the claim.
Kuwait and Oman have remained neutral in the dispute. And although politically they present a more favorable option, neither has more than one stadium that could currently meet the requirements for hosting a World Cup match.
In March, Infantino had said that “90 percent are in favor of an increase” to the 48-team format in 2022. The overwhelming support now means nothing since no proposal will be presented for a vote at the FIFA Congress on June 5 in Paris.
The highlight of the meeting appears to now be the re-election of Infantino, who is running unopposed for a second term.