If the World Cup 2026 football will be played well to 48 teams, FIFA President Gianni Infantino failed to impose the figure from 2022, which will remain at 32.
A stop for Gianni Infantino : the president of Fifa whose first decision was to move the World Cup 2026 to 48 teams failed to pass his measure in the World Cup 2022 in Qatar, because of the blockade imposed by the neighbouring countries.
Fifa, which voted in March 2019 at a meeting of its Council in Miami for this expansion to 48 teams , based on a feasibility study, had recorded the transition from 32 to 48 teams from 2022 on the agenda of its next congress on June 5th in Paris but said on Wednesday 22nd May that “in the current circumstances, such a proposal could not be implemented.”
Gianni Infantino’s project was facing a major geopolitical obstacle with the blockade imposed on Qatar by several neighbouring countries .
“The involvement of these countries in the organisation of the tournament jointly with Qatar implies the lifting of this blockade, in particular the lifting of restrictions on the movement of people and goods”, thus underlined the feasibility study submitted in March to the members of the Fifa Council.
This feasibility study consulted by AFP also ensured that a World Cup in Qatar with 48 teams instead of 32 would generate “between 300 and 400 M USD (between 265 and 354 M EUR) of additional income”.
In detail, Fifa was counting on an additional $ 120 million in TV rights, $ 150 million in marketing rights and $ 90 million in ticketing.
Marketers and TV rights, however, said they were “skeptical” about FIFA’s “optimistic” forecasts of these additional revenues.
48 teams in 2026
This 48-team format, already endorsed for the 2026 World Cup, which will be played in three countries (USA, Canada and Mexico), means going from 64 to 80 matches. Its establishment in 2022 would have required a neighbouring country of Qatar, such as Kuwait or Oman, host matches.
“FIFA and Qatar have jointly explored all possibilities to increase the number of teams from 32 to 48 by involving neighboring countries,” said the release of Fifa. “Following a thorough consultation process (…) it was concluded that in the present circumstances such a proposal could not be implemented”.
FIFA and Qatar have “also studied the possibility for Qatar to host the tournament to 48 teams in particular lowering the requirements of Fifa,” adds the authority. But a joint analysis concluded that because of “the progress of the preparations, more time was needed and a decision could not be made until June. It was decided not to go further in this option.
The World Cup 2022 in Qatar retains its original format with 32 teams and “no proposal will be submitted to the Congress of FIFA on June 5 in Paris,” adds the authority.
Failure for Infantino
This announcement sounds like a failure for Infantino, who has struggled all over the world to defend his project, apparently with the support of Saudi Arabia. At the same time, Italo-Suisse is continuing its plans for the 24-team World Club Cup starting in 2021, which UEFA does not support.
“Football certainly transcends many obstacles but Infantino did not understand that football could not transcend geopolitical conflicts,” says a good connoisseur of world football.
“Very few people believed in this Infantino project, so seeing Fifa give it up is not a huge surprise,” he added.
At the head of Fifa since February 2016 where he succeeded Sepp Blatter forced to resign because of a vast corruption scandal, Gianni Infantino, sole candidate, is guaranteed to be elected for a second term on June 5 during the Fifa Congress in Paris.