A FIFA report obtained by the Associated Press news agency has found that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar could be expanded to 48 teams if at least one neighbouring country is brought in as a co-host, with 10 stadia outlined as potential host venues.
The World Cup is due to expand from 32 teams to 48 for the 2026 edition in the US, Canada and Mexico, but FIFA is exploring the possibility of bringing forward the expansion by four years.
Qatar plans on using eight stadia within a 30-mile radius and the extra 16 teams would place an increased strain on its hosting capabilities, meaning additional host countries would need to be sought.
The AP noted that FIFA’s report has assessed the political, logistical and legal issues that would come with adding 16 more teams. The report has been prepared so the FIFA Council can agree in principle on the plans during a meeting in Miami on Friday, with a final decision to be made in June.
Stadia in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been identified. Qatar would need to decide which nations it could work with.
With Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE having severed diplomatic relations with the country, Kuwait and Oman would appear most likely and last week the AP reported that FIFA was considering these two countries for extra matches.
Bahrain’s 30,000-seat National Stadium in Riffa has been identified as a potential host, along with Kuwait’s 60,000-capacity Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium (pictured) and 26,000-seat Sabah Al-Salem Stadium.
In Oman, Muscat’s Boshar-Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex, which has a capacity of 34,000, has been put forward. Venues in Saudi Arabia that have been identified are Riyadh’s 68,000-seat King Fahd International Stadium, Jeddah’s 62,000-capacity King Abdullah Sports City Stadium and Dammam’s 26,000-capacity Prince Mohammed bin Fahad bin Abdul Aziz venue.
The UAE stadia that have been suggested are the 43,000-seat Zayed Sports City Stadium and 42,000-seat Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, along with Al Ain’s 23,000-seat Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.
The FIFA report obtained by the AP said that two to four venues would be needed if the 2022 World Cup becomes a 48-team tournament. The aforementioned capacities are according to FIFA.
FIFA’s feasibility study says: “It is important to stress that this list is based on a preliminary search only and is non-exhaustive. Moreover, the potential suitability of these and other stadiums could only be conclusively determined following a comprehensive inspection process, in which such stadiums were closely scrutinised against FIFA’s requirements for FIFA World Cup stadiums as well as assessed for their availability, construction plans, etc.
“In this respect, it is worth noting that any construction works which would be required would need to be completed prior to the tournament. For reference, FIFA generally requires that stadiums be completed 12 months prior to the tournament in order to ensure venue readiness and testing.”
Venues with a capacity of at least 40,000 were required of 2026 World Cup bidders but no such restrictions are placed on 2022 stadia.
FIFA has also stated that any co-hosts would need to provide government assurances, including human rights requirements.