MIAMI (AP) — The Latest on the FIFA Council meeting (all times local):
The FIFA Council has approved working with Qatar to explore expanding the 2022 World Cup to 48 teams by adding at least one more country in the Persian Gulf to host matches.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino wants to enlarge the tournament from 32 to 48 teams, which a feasibility study has shown requires at least one additional country being used out of five identified.
FIFA will now produce a proposal with Qatar to take to the next council and congress meetings in June in Paris.
The World Cup is already growing to 48 teams from 2026, when the tournament will be co-hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico.
A FIFA feasibility study says Qatar would not be forced to share games with Bahrain, Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates unless those countries restore diplomatic and travel ties with Doha.
Because of their neutrality in the situation, Kuwait and Oman are indicated to be the current possible options to host games in 2022, but their stadium infrastructure is only briefly assessed in a FIFA report.
The FIFA Council has agreed to introduce a pilot tournament of an enlarged 24-team Club World Cup in 2021 despite European opposition.
It will replace the current seven-team annual Club World Cup, which is currently played in December, with an expanded quadrennial version in June-July 2021.
The announcement was made by FIFA President Gianni Infantino.
The European Club Association says none of its teams will take part in a 24-team Club World Cup in 2021.
The ECA expressed its concerns this week in a letter to FIFA President Gianni Infantino ahead of a decision whether to replace the current seven-team annual Club World Cup, which is played in December, with an expanded quadrennial version in June-July 2021 as a pilot edition.
The letter, which was seen by The Associated Press, was signed by top executives from 14 leading European clubs, including ECA head Andrea Agnelli, who is chairman of Juventus.
The ECA executive board says it is “against any potential approval of a revised CWC at this point in time and confirm that no ECA Clubs would take part to such competition.”
They urged FIFA “to postpone any decision relating to the CWC until such moment when the legitimate concerns and interests of the European Clubs have been properly addressed.”
Those concerns center on not wanting FIFA to add new competitions until there is an agreement on a new international match calendar from 2024.
The ECA represents 232 clubs in Europe.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino will ask his ruling council to agree that the 2022 World Cup should be expanded to 48 teams if at least one of Qatar’s neighbors can stage matches.
A final decision on the expansion wouldn’t come until June, however.
According to documents seen by The Associated Press, FIFA wants approval to press ahead with producing a “valid proposal” with Qatari organizers on the feasibility of adding 16 teams, which requires 16 additional games.
The FIFA Council will be asked Friday to decide whether the member associations at their congress in June should have the final decision on expanding the tournament.
A FIFA feasibility study seen by the AP says Qatar would not be forced to share games with Bahrain, Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates unless those countries restore diplomatic and travel ties with Doha. Because of their neutrality in the situation, Kuwait and Oman are indicated to be the current possible options identified by FIFA to host games in 2022, but their stadium infrastructure is only briefly assessed in a FIFA report.
The president of Barcelona has spoken out against the haste to introduce a 24-team Club World Cup in 2021 ahead of the FIFA Council deciding Friday whether to approve the pilot of the enlarged tournament.
European clubs have publicly resisted FIFA’s bid to replace the current seven-team annual Club World Cup, which is played annually in December, with an expanded quadrennial version in June-July.
Barcelona President Josep Bartomeu backs a revamp of the competition, just not until the entire calendar for club and national team matches is reconfigured for 2024 and beyond to cope with an additional burden on players.
Bartomeu told The Associated Press that “we have to take care of the footballers,” adding “if the calendar is not modified, of course we cannot agree.”
In 2021, FIFA envisages the window for international matches — which is likely to include 2022 World Cup qualifiers — running May 31-June 8. The Club World Cup would be held June 17-July 4, while the African Cup of Nations and CONCACAF Gold Cup could be played July 5-July 31. European club seasons typically start around mid-August.
The Club World Cup in 2021 would fill the slot previously reserved for the Confederations Cup, which serves as a test event in a host nation a year before the World Cup.
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