Fifa backs 48-team in 2022 World Cup but final decision in June

'We have the duty to look into it, 90 per cent are in favour of an increase but it's not as easy as that,' says president Gianni Infantino

FIFA President Gianni Infantino addresses the media during a press conference following the FIFA Council Meetings in Miami, Florida, on March 15, 2019.  FIFA has recommended expanding the 2022 World Cup in Qatar from 32 to 48 teams, world football's governing body confirmed on Friday. / AFP / RHONA WISE
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Fifa moved a step closer on Friday to expanding the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to 48 teams and hopes to confirm the plans in June if a suitable co-host can be found.

An internal feasibility study supporting the expansion, which is being strongly pushed by president Gianni Infantino, was given full backing by the Fifa council in Miami.

A final decision will now be taken in Paris on June 6 after the world football governing body and Qatar jointly submit the names of potential co-host nations to the governing body's Congress.

Infantino, who also confirmed a new Club World Cup with 24 teams will begin in 2021 to replace the Confederations Cup, said: "You have in front of you a happy Fifa president. I am always happy but especially today because we have taken some important decisions.

"We came to conclusion, yes it's feasible to move from 32 to 48 teams at the World Cup provided certain conditions are met. We have the duty to look into it, 90 per cent are in favour of an increase but it's not as easy as that. We have to analyse matters carefully and we are working closely with Qatar."

The move away from the traditional 32 teams which will see 80 matches instead of 64 - the notion was originally slated to come into effect for the 2026 tournament in North America - means one or more other countries will be asked to help Qatar stage the shortened 28-day event which is scheduled to kick off in November 2022.

The New York Times reported a week ago that Oman and Kuwait could host some matches under Fifa plans.

Meanwhile, the Qatari organising committee for the 2022 World Cup gave a lukewarm response to Friday's decision, saying organisers would continue planning for a 32-team event.

"We will work with Fifa to determine whether or not a viable operating model does exist and importantly, whether it is in the best interests for football and for the tournament, and for Qatar as the host nation," a spokesman for Qatar 2022 said.

"Until we reach that conclusion, we will continue to work toward hosting a 32-team World Cup."

FILE - In this Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018 file photo, Real Madrid players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Club World Cup at Zayed Sport City in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. FIFA Council members will be asked on Friday March 15, 2019, to approve a pilot of an expanded 24-team Club World Cup in June-July 2021, The Associated Press has learned. A revamp of the current annual December seven-team competition is being pursued by FIFA President Gianni Infantino despite ongoing opposition from Europe, with the long-term vision of the bigger Club World Cup being staged every four years. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)

Backlash against Club World Cup

Fifa has been told that the leading European clubs will boycott a Club World Cup expanded to 24 teams in 2021 which was also given the go-ahead at the meeting in Florida.

A 17-page report distributed to the 37 members of Fifa's ruling body calls for the new tournament to take place between June 17 and July 4 2021, replacing the Confederations Cup international tournament.

Infantino called the decision to move ahead with the plans an "important milestone for world football" and expects no problems moving forward. "We should enjoy what is coming," he said.

But the European Club Association (ECA) said leading European clubs would boycott the event.

"ECA clubs will not participate in the Club World Cup in 2021 and will assess participation in the Club World Cup in 2024," an ECA spokesman told AFP.

Uefa also confirmed Europe had voted against the new tournament at Friday's meeting.

There was also confirmation from Fifa that the video assistant referee system (VAR) will be used at the women's World Cup this summer.

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