A 48-team World Cup in Qatar and another Gulf state in 2022 moved a step closer last night after football chiefs pushed on with plans to extend the competition early.
The FIFA Council approved working with Qatar to explore expanding the 2022 World Cup from 32 to 48 teams and a final decision will be made in June.
A FIFA feasibility study said the expansion would require at least one other country to co-host the competition, with Kuwait and Oman suggested as the best options.
Qatar would not be forced to share games with Bahrain, Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates unless diplomatic relations improve.
The 2026 World Cup, which will be by the United States, Canada and Mexico, will be 48 teams, but FIFA President Gianni Infantino wants to expand the next edition of the tournament.
He said he believed a 48-team World Cup in 2022 in Qatar is ‘feasible’, adding: ‘If it happens, fantastic. If it doesn’t happen, fantastic also.’
The two biggest governing bodies in world football, meanwhile, are on a collision course after FIDA approved plans for an expanded Club World Cup from June 2021.
The move is likely to trigger a heavyweight clash between the global authority and UEFA, with leading European clubs expressing opposition to the proposal.
A leaked letter from the powerful European Club Association (ECA) to UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin stated that its clubs would refuse to take part.
The changes to the Club World Cup will see the introduction of a 24-team competition, rather than the existing seven, which would be likely to feature eight clubs from Europe.
Infantini said: ‘Now the world will see a real Club World Cup where fans will see the best teams in the world compete to be crowned the real world champions.
‘Club football is evolving at a different pace in different parts of the world and we want to have an exciting, prestigious and inclusive competition, and we’ll have that with this Club World Cup, starting in 2021.
‘We hope that all the best teams will participate and we’ve had some very positive discussions with UEFA.’
Video assistant referees have also been approved for this year’s Women’s World Cup, which starts in France on June 7.
Male VAR operators are likely to assist all-female teams of referees and assistants given no domestic women’s competition uses video review.