Qatar has inaugurated its first stadium for the 2022 World Cup. The stadium is one of many that will be opened for the sporting event. The inauguration comes weeks before FIFA meets to decide if there will be an early expansion of the famous tournament.
The Al-Wakrah Stadium, which has a capacity of 40,000, is located close to the capital of Doha. The stadium debuted with a match between two local teams, who played the final of the Emir Cup on Thursday.
The stadium is the second completed venue for the upcoming tournament. Qatar was announced as host of the World Cup back in 2010. The announcement also confirmed Russia as host of the 2018 World Cup, which ended with France as the champion.
Qatar is preparing all of its venues for the tournament but FIFA could have bigger plans for the 2022 edition. In recent months, FIFA President Gianni Infantino has expressed interest in expanding the tournament.
Expansion Approved for 2026
FIFA approved an expansion a few years ago but it was scheduled for the 2026 edition. The recent comments from the FIFA President suggest that an early expansion might happen. The football organization will soon meet to discuss the expansion. If approved, the early expansion would take the tournament from 32 to 48 teams.
Reports have recently mentioned that neighboring countries might be serious candidates for co-hosts. One of the biggest problems of an early expansion is that diplomatic relations between Qatar and some of its bordering countries are not okay. The country has seen boycotts and accusations from several countries since mid 2017.
Qatar plans to have eight or twelve stadiums for the tournament. Seven stadiums have been built for the event. An eighth stadium is already being used after it was renovated and opened two years ago.
Summit In June
FIFA is expected to make a decision on the expansion during a summit scheduled for June 5. The expansion would mean two or maybe even three countries hosting games for the tournament. Last tournament to be co-hosted was the 2002 edition between South Korea and Japan.
An early expansion would give 16 more teams the chance to qualify for the World Cup. CONMEBOL and UEFA would be among the regions to heavily benefit from the expansion since their qualifiers often come down to the final games. If approved, FIFA would then have to announce the extra spots for each region and how they would be decided. The change would have to come before the World Cup qualifiers begin.
Future WC Bids
An expansion is already set for the 2026 edition, which has the US, Canada and Mexico as co-hosts. Several countries will attempt to co-host the tournament after the 2026 edition. Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay have already confirmed a bid for the 2030 edition. Rumors say several European countries are also interested in the idea. Portugal and Spain are rumored to be discussing a bid. The two have even thought about bringing in Morocco for the bid. Morocco has submitted five bids in the past but has never been chosen as the host.