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World Cup expansion to dominate FIFA agenda in Miami

AFP  |  Miami 

The possible expansion of is poised to dominate discussions when FIFA's ruling council meets here on Friday.

wants to increase the number of teams due to take part in the footballing showpiece from 32 to 48, bringing forward by four years an expansion which has already been set for the 2026 finals.

Details of an internal feasibility study by which emerged this week gave broad support to expanding the 2022 finals in

But while the study found that the increase would deliver a financial windfall for of between USD 300-USD 400 million, several logistical and political obstacles to expansion remain.

The World Cup, the first to take place in the Middle East, is due to be held over 28 days in November and December 2022 instead of the usual 32.

Officials have said previously that it is not possible for to change the number of days of the tournament, meaning games would have to be held in neighbouring states.

If the template of to be staged by the United States, and is used, approximately 20 of the tournament's 80 games would need to be held outside Qatar.

But that scenario is complicated by Qatar being at the centre of the worst diplomatic crisis to hit the Gulf in years.

A rancorous diplomatic dispute with former allies, including Saudi Arabia, and has led to the tiny Gulf state being diplomatically and politically isolated.

A source with knowledge of the feasibility study told AFP this week that five countries were seen as options to stage games outside Qatar in 2022 -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the

But Bahrain, and the UAE would only be candidates if their governments ended the Qatar blockade, the study said.

- Regional acrimony -

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"Due to the geopolitical situation in the region and the recent blockade that Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE have imposed on Qatar, the involvement of such countries in organising a co-hosted tournament with Qatar would require the lifting of such blockade, in particular the lifting of all restrictions relating to the movement of people and goods between these countries," the feasibility study said.

"Ideally, this should be evidenced as a precondition to the appointment of such co-hosts and should cover all aspects to the Qatar 2022."

While the bitter regional acrimony would appear to be a significant obstacle to expansion, Infantino has spoken bullishly of a thawing in relations, citing the recent US-Korea summit in

"The geopolitical situation is complex but I see that and met today, so that means that anything is possible," Infantino said in last month.

"I think it's worthwhile having a look at the idea and trying (to implement it). Obviously it won't be easy, but we've already made the decision to have 48 teams for 2026, so why not before?" he added.

Meanwhile, members will also vote on the creation of an expanded 24-team Club World Cup, with a "pilot" edition of the new tournament to be held in 2021.

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.

The new tournament is the result of a working group created by FIFA following opposition to an earlier proposed revamp presented at a meeting last year in

The document said five of the six regional confederations were in favour of the proposal being tabled at Friday's meeting.

However European governing body UEFA, which accuses FIFA of a lack of consultation and transparency over the issue, has opposed the vote citing scheduling problems.

Under the proposal to be discussed, UEFA, which had initially sought 12 teams in the tournament, will have only eight slots.

will have six qualified clubs, while Africa, Asia, and will each have three teams. One team will represent the region.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, March 14 2019. 09:35 IST
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