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FIFA may expand 2022 World Cup in Qatar

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There is still a very real possibility that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will see 48 teams take part for the first time in history.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]  

Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on Friday ahead of the 2018 World Cup final, FIFA president Gianni Infantino revealed that the World Cup could be expanded and talks are planned.

The tournament was scheduled to only have 32 teams with the field to be expanded to 48 teams for the first time for the 2026 World Cup joint-hosted by the USA, Mexico and Canada. But talks around adding an extra 16 teams continue, even though Qatar wants it to remain at 32 teams as they’ve only built eight host stadiums so far.

“In the coming months, we will meet with them and adopt a decision. For the moment, it will be played with 32 teams and the distribution of spots will remain as they are,” Infantino said. “First we will discuss with the Qataris and then with the FIFA Council and stakeholders and decide calmly what the decision is. For the moment, we have a World Cup with 32 teams.”

[ MORE: Key battles in 2018 WC final ]

Infantino also confirmed that the tournament, which will be played in the Middle East for the first time, will kick off on Nov. 21 and end on Dec. 18. The official dates for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar were reiterated by Infantino after initially being released three years ago.

“The dates for the World Cup are set. It will played in Qatar from Nov. 21 to Dec. 18, 2022,” Infantino said. “The leagues are all aware and they will have to adapt their calendars as a consequence. In the end it is the right decision. It cannot be played in June and July and in November and December the players are very well prepared because it is almost the beginning of the season.”

These dates had been previously stated as it was agreed that the World Cup would be moved from June/July to November/December to coincide with the extreme weather conditions in Qatar in the summer months.

With the domestic seasons in Europe set to adapt their schedule for the tournament, there is also the small matter of Major League Soccer having to squeeze in its own playoff games into a much smaller window for the 2022 season.

On top of that, in the U.S. sporting sphere it will be a busy, crowded place in November/December as the World Cup games will compete with college football, the NFL, NHL and NBA for air-time.

Qataris considering a 48-team option for 2022 World Cup

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MOSCOW (AP) Qatari organizers of the 2022 World Cup say they’re open to talks about a 48-team tournament, and can see a format to host it alone.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s wish to add 16 extra teams in 2022 was seen as pushing Qatar toward letting neighboring states into a co-hosting plan.

In Moscow last month, pressure on Qatar was eased when the Infantino-chaired FIFA Council agreed the host nation’s consent was a “precondition” for change.

A senior Qatari official on Saturday said a 48-team tournament could be staged using just the eight stadiums in and around Doha.

“Yes, it’s doable, we just need to figure out how it is done,” Nasser Al Khater, the assistant secretary general Tournament Affairs, told reporters. “If the format is done right, it could actually be an edition that is exciting.”

Though Qatar is willing to negotiate, the veto power it apparently gained is key to any progress on the tournament expansion.

“If we feel that it’s not in favor of us or of football, we won’t go for it,” Al Khater said at the opening of a Qatari hospitality house in Moscow’s Gorky Park. “If the format of a 48-team World Cup is an exciting format, and it doesn’t follow the traditional type of format, yeah, why not? It might add an exciting new element.”

One option stands out. A playoff round involving 32 nations from which 16 winners would join 16 seeded teams in a traditional group stage.

“Maybe it’s a sudden death, one game sudden death and you’re out, and maybe it happens before the rest of the teams come,” Al Khater said.

That format was rejected in January 2017 by FIFA’s ruling council when it agreed to expand the World Cup. The 48 teams at the 2026 edition, which is set to be staged in the United States, Canada and Mexico, will play in 16 groups of three teams.

FIFA said last year that the playoff round idea was disliked because sudden-death losers would feel they were going home before the real World Cup started with 32 teams.

A further barrier to 48 teams in Qatar is any format would add to the 28-day World Cup program already agreed for November-December 2022, which is already a departure from the regular mid-year schedule. Europe’s top leagues have said it would be unacceptable for them to lose another weekend of fixtures in November to add extra World Cup playing days.

“Everything we have done is toward a 32-team World Cup,” Al Khater acknowledged.

FIFA and Qatari organizers have said final decisions about the 2022 tournament are needed before the worldwide program of qualifying games starts early next year.

Negotiations at the highest level could take place next weekend when the Emir of Qatar arrives in Moscow to attend the World Cup final.

Prospect of 2022 Qatar World Cup jumping to 48 teams fading

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MOSCOW (AP) — The prospect of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar growing to 48 teams faded Sunday after a discussion of the thorny issue was pulled from the agenda for FIFA’s annual congress.

[ MORE: USMNT, France draw 1-1 | Player ratings | Three things ]

Plans for a feasibility study were put on hold after Qatar World Cup head Hassan Al-Thawadi addressed the ruling council of world football’s governing body and FIFA President Gianni Infantino said agreement from the Gulf nation is a “precondition.”

Having previously said he was keen on an adding 16 teams, Infantino is now casting doubt on the possibility of further disrupting preparations for the Qatar tournament.

The FIFA Congress, which features up to 211 football federations, will now have no say in the number of teams at the tournament in Qatar. Infantino said there would be no change in the number of finalists once qualifying begins, which is likely in early 2019.

“The final decision is that the council will decide,” Infantino said after Sunday’s council meeting in Moscow. “But obviously it cannot decide this without the agreement with the hosts of Qatar. That’s a precondition obviously.”

[ MORE: Team-by-team 2018 World Cup previews ]

Qatar is building eight stadiums to host the Middle East’s first World Cup and 12-14 venues would be required to accommodate 48 teams. That would only realistically be possible if Qatar shared hosting duties, which is problematic because its Middle East neighbors severed ties with Qatar in a diplomatic dispute last year and because it would be a significant change from the plans FIFA voters agreed to in 2010.

The Qatar World Cup schedule has already been changed, with the tournament moved from its usual June-July slot to November-December due to the fierce summer heat.

FIFA is already committed to a 48-team World Cup in 2026 and the South American confederation of 10 nations formally asked Infantino in April to fast-track the expansion. Infantino has toned down his initial enthusiasm over the concept, with little sign of support away from CONMEBOL.

“It’s really premature to discuss about any of the details about it,” Infantino said. “The FIFA administration will discuss with the hosts and then we will see. For the moment what there is, is a World Cup with 32 teams being played.”

Regardless of the number of teams playing in Qatar, the way all 211 men’s national sides are seeded in qualifying is being reconfigured.

A new formula that rewards teams for playing more games was approved Sunday, and it takes effect in July ranking after the World Cup in Russia.

The current system in place since 1993 lets teams boost their status by avoiding friendly games. Now, teams will gain or lose points from their existing points total with each result. Even more weight will be given to competitive games over friendlies.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

“The new formula (is) more intuitive and accurate, eliminating the potential for ranking manipulation,” FIFA said.

Germany is the top-ranked team when the World Cup kicks off Thursday in Moscow.

Before the tournament starts, FIFA will be deciding the host of the 2026 World Cup. The council rubber-stamped the participation of Morocco and the joint United States-Canada-Mexico bid in the ballot on Wednesday.

The North America bid has the edge after scoring 4 overall on a 0-to-5 scale in the FIFA inspection panel’s reports. Morocco scored 2.7, with three parts of the proposals labeled “high risk” — notably the lack of stadiums and hotels.

It is likely only 206 football federations will vote after Kosovo officials told FIFA they will not attend the election meeting after the sudden death of federation president Fadil Vokkri, a former Yugoslavia international, at age 57.

Ghana has kept its right to vote, despite risking a FIFA suspension for government interference in how the national football body is run.

Football in Ghana is in turmoil after a television documentary this week broadcast footage of officials taking cash payments from undercover reporters posing as businessmen.

FIFA asked to expand 2022 World Cup to 48 teams

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The South American soccer confederation (CONMEBOL) has asked FIFA to expand the 2022 World Cup tournament to 48 teams, with the first-ever 48-team World Cup currently schedule to take place in 2026.

According to CONMEBOL, their president Alejandro Dominguez has asked FIFA President Gianni Infantino to speed up the expansion of the World Cup.

Having an expanded tournament in Qatar would produce plenty of problems as the tiny Middle East nation would have to increase the tournament from 64 to 80 games.

With the 2022 World Cup set to take place in November/December instead of the usual June/July timeframe due to concerns over the extreme heat in Qatar, expanding the tournament beyond 28 days during a break in the domestic seasons in Europe would also create plenty of issues.

This is certainly an intriguing request from the South American nations but if FIFA is serious about getting as many teams involved as possible, surely they won’t be that against a 48-team World Cup in Qatar having already sanctioned it for 2026?

Exploited Qatar World Cup workers to receive compensation

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Qatar World Cup organizers say migrant workers building stadiums will receive more than $5 million in compensation after recruitment fees were demanded to secure employment in the Gulf nation.

The announcement highlights ongoing concerns about the exploitation of workers, many of them drawn from South Asian nations including India and Nepal, who are relied on to prepare Qatar for the FIFA tournament in 2022.

World Cup organizing committee secretary general Hassan Al Thawadi acknowledged Sunday that “all too often, the very people who have left their homes to provide for their families are the ones exploited.”

Al Thawadi says his organizing committee and contractors “have agreed on a mechanism to ensure that our workers are reimbursed for the hardships they may have endured when coming to Qatar to work.”

Organizers say 12 million Qatari riyals ($5.2 million) in compensation will be paid to workers from companies over the next two years.