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.