FIFA President Plays Down Hopes of 2022 WC Expansion

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has spoken about the World Cup expansion for the 2022 edition but his comments are different from what he said a few days ago. The FIFA President said during the Asian Football Confederation’s annual congress that an expansion for the tournament was feasible.

The comments from Infantino made it seem like an expansion was closer but the FIFA president said during an interview with AFP and other media that it is a difficult challenge. Infantino explained that he hadn’t changed his mind on the expansion and that he was positive about it from the beginning.

The expansion will take place in the World Cup after Qatar. The 2026 edition will be hosted by the US, Mexico and Canada. The joint bid recently won a vote against Morocco, which was looking to become the second African country to host the sporting event.

Reports said that hosting games in neighboring countries for the 2022 edition was an idea. Those reports mentioned that the idea came up as a way to ease the diplomatic dispute that has surrounded Qatar.

Qatar was chosen as the host of the 2022 World Cup back in 2010. The country has been preparing for a 32 team tournament instead of a 48 team event since the expansion was approved last year.

The most recent World Cups have featured 32 teams with eight groups of four. The expansion, approved by FIFA in early 2017, will change all of that. The tournament will instead feature 48 teams, which means that each region will have more spots for the qualifiers.

2026 Edition – 48 Teams

The expansion was chosen out of several proposals discussed by FIFA. It was announced at the time that the 2026 edition would be the first to see the changes. The expansion not only brings more teams but also big changes to the group stage. The group stage will now feature 16 groups of three. Two teams from each group will advance to the knockout stage.

Infantino said during the annual congress last month that more Asian countries would have the chance to qualify with the expansion. AFC teams currently have 4.5 spots with the half being a playoff game against a team from another region. The expansion would bring a total of 8.5 spots for the region, which means that at least four more teams would be able to participate in the tournament.

Expansion and Spots For Other Regions

Other regions such as South America, Europe and Africa will likely see an increase on the spots. The expansion would heavily benefit regions such as South America and Europe, which saw teams such as Netherlands, Italy, and Copa America Champions Chile miss out on the tournament.

The expansion has been announced for 2026 but Infantino had shown interest in bringing it earlier. The latest comments by the FIFA president make it seem like it will be very difficult for this to happen. FIFA will have to make some decision on that in the near future since the tournament is less than four years away and Qatar has been preparing for 32 teams.