The 2022 World Cup in Qatar may be expanded from 32 to 48 teams, the head of FIFA, soccer's world governing body, said here Friday.
"We have published to our council members a feasibility study which is quite a thorough document, where we came to the conclusion that, yes, it is feasible to move the World Cup in 2022 from 32 to 48 teams. It is feasible, provided certain conditions are met," Gianni Infantino said during a meeting of the FIFA Council in Miami.
FIFA decided last year that the 2026 World Cup, to be hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico, would use the new 48-team format.
The feasibility study identified potential venues in Qatar's neighbors Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman and the United Arab Emirates for the 16 additional matches that would be required if the 2022 tournament were expanded.
But to be eligible to host matches, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE would have to drop the diplomatic blockade they instituted against Qatar in 2017.
"So, to be very clear, today we have a World Cup in Qatar of 32 teams, and this is great like this," Infantino said.
"However, since we decided in January 2017 that we should increase the number of teams participating in the World Cup from 32 to 48 - this will happen as of 2026 - and following a request received by the 10 South American associations last year, we are looking into the matter and seeing whether it is possible, whether it is feasible to anticipate this in 2022," the FIFA chief said.
"If it is feasible, if it is possible, great. If it is not feasible, if it is not possible, great," he said.
A final decision will be made at the FIFA Congress in Paris in June, coinciding with the Women's World Cup, Infantino said.
"With an additional 16 teams, there will be greater expenditure of course, but also more income," he said. "And we are firmly convinced of the fact that, roughly speaking, the expenditure will be covered by the income. So we will be receiving more money and 16 more countries in the world will have the opportunity to participate in the biggest football event in the world."
Expanding the field to 48 teams would create three additional berths for Europe, an extra four each for Africa and Asia, three more spots for North and Central America. And the first time, Oceania would get a guaranteed slot.