June 10, 2018 / 3:59 PM / 8 days ago

Too early to discuss 48-team World Cup in 2022, Infantino says

MOSCOW (Reuters) - FIFA President Gianni Infantino said on Sunday the global soccer governing body would not discuss the possibility of having a 48-team World Cup in Qatar in 2022 at its congress next week, saying it would first discuss the matter with the host country.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino delivers a speech during the official opening of the 2018 World Cup International Broadcast Centre (IBC) in Moscow, Russia June 9, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

“The FIFA administration will discuss with the hosts and then we will see,” Infantino told reporters in Moscow. “For the moment, what there is is a World Cup with 32 teams.”

Infantino, who said it was premature to discuss the issue at the FIFA congress in Moscow on Wednesday, did not give a clear timeline on when a decision would be made. He stressed, however, that a decision should be made before qualification for the tournament, which is likely begin in early 2019.

When asked if Qatar could co-host the World Cup with another country if the tournament were enlarged, Infantino said: “It’s really premature to discuss any of the details about that.”

The World Cup will be increased from 32 to 48 teams from 2026 but the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) proposed in April that the change be introduced in 2022.

That proposal has met with some resistance.

The head of European Leagues (EPFL), Lars-Christer Olsson, told Reuters in April that the plan to introduce 48 teams at the 2022 World Cup was impossible to carry out and did not make sense.

FIFA said on Sunday it had approved a new system for its rankings that would “eliminate the potential for ranking manipulation” and be introduced after this year’s World Cup in Russia.

“It gives, I think, some more weight to official matches and so on but also takes away some of these imbalances we had before,” Infantino said. “I hope it will be a little less subject to criticism.”

FIFA also said it had ratified the two bids to host the 2026 World Cup –- a Moroccan bid and a joint one by the United States, Canada and Mexico — and that they would be put to its Congress to vote on Wednesday.

The United States hosted the World Cup in 1994 and bid unsuccessfully for 2022, while Mexico staged the 1970 and 1986 tournaments. Morocco has already made four failed bids to host the World Cup.

Russia is hosting this year’s World Cup from Thursday, until July 15, in 12 venues spread across 11 cities including Moscow, St Petersburg and Sochi.

Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; editing by Clare Fallon

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