The FIFA Council has approved working with Qatar to explore the possibility of expanding the 2022 World Cup to 48 teams through the addition of one more host country.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino is keen to expand the tournament and says a feasibility study shows it can be achieved with a second host.
The announcement was made at a FIFA Council meeting in Miami, though a final decision will not be taken until a full meeting of FIFA Congress in Paris in June.
The feasibility study said Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman and United Arab Emirates were potential co-hosts for the tournament.
However, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates would not be allowed to share the tournament unless their governments end a diplomatic blockade of Qatar, which has been on-going since 2017.
“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,” said Infantino.
“So, to be very clear, today we have a World Cup in Qatar of 32 teams, and this is great like this.
“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.
“If it is feasible, if it is possible, great. If it is not feasible, if it is not possible, great.”
Infantino also made it clear that FIFA believe the move to 48 teams will, along with allowing more countries to enter the event, bring in more revenue even with the potentially high cost of preparing a second host nation on short notice.
“With an additional 16 teams, there will be greater expenditure of course, but also more income.
“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.”
Qatar was initially awarded the 2022 World Cup in 2010, with the tournament later switched to winter in order to avoid the searing summer temperatures in Gulf state.
Football’s governing body has already approved the expansion of the tournament from 2026, which will be co-hosted by Canada, Mexico and United States.