Expansion of the World Cup field, from 32 to 48 teams, is inevitable as FIFA has been exploring and not-so-subtly hinting at the idea for a number of years.
From the outset, the 2026 tournament — which we now know will be hosted in the United States, Mexico and Canada — has been earmarked as the target date for increasing the field of teams by 50 percent. It was confirmed by a vote in January 2017, more than nine years before the tournament kicks off.
Now, according to FIFA president Gianni Infantino, that timetable might just get moved up by four years for the 2022 tournament in Qatar. I mean, why not, right? In fact, that’s actually Infantino’s take on the matter: why not? — quotes from the BBC:
“If it is possible, why not?”
“We have to see if it is possible, if it is feasible. We are discussing with our Qatari friends, we are discussing with our many other friends in the region and we hope that this can happen.
“And, if not, we will have tried. We will have tried because we always have to try to do things in a better way.”
The change would require Qatar to share hosting duties with other countries in the region. Given that the tournament is scheduled to begin in just over four years (Nov. 21, 2022), such an alteration to plans would appear to be unwise and ill-advised.
On the other hand, it would almost certainly be an obscenely lucrative move for FIFA. Thus, it can’t be ruled out.