The World Cup 2018 in Russia is not over yet, but in Qatar, they are already busy with the World Cup over four years in that country. And maybe that will be the first World Cup with 48 countries. This is what Nasser Al Khater says on behalf of the organisation to news agency AP.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino recently saw his big wish come true: the World Cup of 2026 in Canada, Mexico and the United States will be a World Cup with no fewer than 48 teams. But perhaps his dream will become a reality four years earlier. Al Khater says on behalf of the organisation that he is open to a tournament with 48 participants: It is feasible, we only have to find out how. If we find a suitable format, we can organise a fascinating edition. “
However, Al Khater does know that only 48 countries will play if that is to the advantage of the organisation and of football. “If not, we will not go for it. But a format with 48 countries can be an exciting format that is not traditional. If that gives more tension, why not? “
The Qataris would like to argue for a playoff round with 32 countries before the group stage at the World Cup. The sixteen countries that survive this round then join the sixteen countries that have already been placed directly for the group phase. “The sixteen countries that lose will go home before other countries have arrived for the group phase.” That idea was fired by FIFA in January 2017 when an increase in the number of World Cup teams was discussed.
There are still more hooks and eyes with the idea of 48 countries in Qatar. The tournament is not played in the summer, but from November 21 to December 18: in the middle of the regular football season. European top competitions have already stated that it is unacceptable to sacrifice an extra league weekend for the World Cup.
Al Khater himself acknowledges that the preparations for the World Cup are also geared to the participation of 32 countries. As a result, the necessary negotiations will have to take place. Starting next Sunday in Moscow. Then Al Khater and Infantino together watch the World Cup final in the Luzhniki stadium. At the beginning of next year, definitive decisions must be made.
Whether it will succeed in 2022 remains as uncertain, but by 2026 at least 48 countries will enter the World Cup stage.