FIFA is considering expanding the 2022 World Cup even when some officials are concerned about the reactions from the host nation, Qatar, whose support the project needs. This politically perilous move that is heavily backed by Gianni Infantino, FIFA's president, would grow the tournament to 48 teams. Under the plan, most matches will still be held in Qatar - which won the rights to 32-team event - but the others can take place in Kuwait and Oman. The expansion, however, doesn't send the games to countries that are leading political and economic blockade of Qatar, like the UAE.
Infantino, who was elected FIFA president in 2016 and is planning to get re-elected for a four-year term in June, is one of the biggest advocates of an expanded World Cup. Final decision on the idea is yet to be made and will be discussed at the FIFA's annual Congress in June, where Infantino is standing unopposed for the re-election.
Qatar's consent is required for the move and once, logistical challenges are triumphed over, Infantino would seek the approval from FIFA's 211 member federations. Organizers of both FIFA and Qatar's World Cup have not commented on the matter.
Qatar's final decision could reflect the political advantage that it's seeking from its neighbors. Infantino believes that the decision can heal rifts in the region. He also visited Oman and Kuwait to discuss the idea, according to people who have knowledge about the matter.
Infantino has always pushed for an expansion of the World Cup at every chance he has gotten, regardless of various setbacks on the way. He had to pull out the agenda from last year's FIFA Congress due to major backlash from stakeholders. Qatar has not fully rejected the proposition too, which has given Infantino enough motivation to go with his expanded format for the 2026 World Cup and beyond.
During expansion, there are some hurdles that the FIFA managers have to discuss like the small size of Qatar that puts to question the country's ability to possess enough infrastructure to host the games and the ban on serving alcohol in Kuwait along with the provision of training venues and airports. They also have to fit in 16 more games into a schedule, now reduced to 29 days.