Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who is serving a six-year ban from football, has stated that the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to the United States or other well-developed countries is still a possibility after fresh corruption charges were brought forth by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Last week, Russia and Qatar both released statements denying the charges, but formal proceedings could potentially push through change regarding the upcoming tournament host where years of speculation and conjecture could not.
In an interview with German publication Sport Bild, Blatter inferred that change is still possible and laid out a short list of countries who would be capable of hosting on short notice. Referencing the joint-bid for the United States to host the 2026 World Cup with Canada and Mexico beginning an expanded field, Blatter suggested that could be formally moved forward.
“Germany could do it. But this would mean the World Cup being staged in Europe again after 2018,” Blatter said. “Europe therefore would not be first choice. The United States could do it instead of 2026. They are capable, it’s not rocket science! Japan could also do it. They also bid to host the 2022 World Cup.”
“Fortunately, the 2022 World Cup will only have 32 teams and not 48 as [FIFA president Gianni Infantino] had planned. The organisational effort would not be bigger than 2018.”
There would still be massive logistical roadblocks to this. As Blatter mentioned, the upcoming 2022 tournament is not yet featuring an expanded field, so filling out a scheduled also playing games in Mexico and Canada could be troublesome with fewer games. If only the United States hosted in 2022 and the 2026 bid was reopened, Mexico and Canada could be left out in the cold, which would clearly not go over well.
Qatar’s denial of the latest allegations was forceful, although their defense continues to shift from “we didn’t do anything wrong” to “you can’t prove it.”
“Despite years of false claims, evidence has never been produced to demonstrate that Qatar won the rights to host the FIFA World Cup 2022 unethically or by means that contravened FIFA’s strict bidding rules,” said the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy in a statement. “The SC maintains that it strictly adhered to all rules and regulations for the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup bidding process and any claim to the contrary is baseless and will be fiercely contested.”
Still, the pressure is mounting on Qatar to prove its innocence, and the murmurs continue about whether they will actually prove a viable host.