Fifa president Gianni Infantino has announced shock proposals to fast-track the expansion of the World Cup from 32 to 48 teams in time for Qatar 2022.
Infantino, who has promised major fresh investment into the world game as part of his re-election drive next year, said “we have to see if is possible” for the new format to be brought forward from 2026.
The proposal comes less than a week since he was forced to put plans on hold for a lucrative new Club World Cup and Nations League after intense European opposition.
Increasing the size of the World Cup so hastily would require Qatar to share 2022 hosting duties with neighbouring countries, presenting a potentially major diplomatic hurdle to overcome.
In 2026, USA, Canada and Mexico have agreed to combine forces to host 48 nations.
Infantino, speaking at the opening of the Asian Football Confederation’s new headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, said of the potential fast-track: “If it is possible, why not? We have to see if it is possible, if it is feasible. 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.”
Infantino also reiterated his plans to expand the Club World Cup, saying he wants to make it a “real competition” that “every club in the world can target”.
Last week he said a “task force” will be appointed to examine the implications for football globally after he was forced to shelve plans to generate up to £19 billion through two fresh competition formats, one for the international game and the other for the elite clubs.
Uefa earned £2.5 billion last season, more than half the £4.3 billion generated by Fifa in the four-year cycle from 2015-2018. The Uefa president, Aleksander Ceferin, was reportedly threatening to lead a walkout of the Fifa council meeting if the new tournament proposals were voted through.
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