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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 November 2018

Fifa president Gianni Infantino and Qatar open to World Cup 2022 being expanded to 48 teams

Fifa president Gianni Infantino believes it is 'possible' the tournament will be expanded up from planned 32 sides

Fifa president Gianni Infantino during his visit to Malaysia. AP Photo
Fifa president Gianni Infantino during his visit to Malaysia. AP Photo

Fifa president Gianni Infantino said expanding the 2022 World Cup to 48 teams was "feasible" on Wednesday, as hosts Qatar pledged to come to a decision in the early part of next year.

Infantino said "Why not?" bring forward the expansion from 32 teams to 48, which is currently due at the 2026 tournament in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

"We have decided... to increase the number of teams participating in the World Cup final tournaments from 32 to 48," Infantino told the Asian Football Confederation's annual congress in Kuala Lumpur.

"It will happen in 2026. Will it happen in 2022? You know me. It is possible. It is possible. Why not?" he added.

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Infantino said an expanded tournament would see Asia's allocation rise from 4.5 places to 8.5, raising cheers from the delegates assembled at a luxury hotel in the Malaysian capital.

"You will have (a bigger) chance. It is possible. It is feasible. We are discussing with our Qatari friends. We are discussing with many other friends in the region. We hope we have it happen. We always have to try," he said.

Accommodating another 16 teams could complicate Qatar's task in preparing for the World Cup.

Meanwhile, Hassan al-Thawadi, head of the 2022 organising body, said Qatar was studying the 48 teams proposal and would make a decision before qualifying gets under way.

"We are still looking at the feasibility studies and we will be in a better position to provide a feedback in the future," he said.

"But it will be decided before the qualifications ... sometime in the first quarter of next year."

Ahead of FIFA's presidential election next year, Infantino said 180 out of the 211 federations had given him their support.

"You know there is an election coming. I have announced I will be a (presidential) candidate. I have received over 180 letters of support," he said.

"And when it comes to Asia, only a couple are missing."