Qatar’s final position on the matter will be decided by its rulers, who may see political advantage in agreeing to include specific neighbouring nations.

FIFA is considering plans to extend the 2022 World Cup to other Arab nations to increase the amount of teams taking part in the tournament.

According to The New York Times, Qatar will still be the host nation, but in order to allow 48 teams to take part Kuwait and Oman are being considered as joint hosts.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino wants to expand the tournament from the usual 32 teams so that it can become a Middle Eastern World Cup open to a wider audience.

Sources state that Qatar is not thrilled about the move seeing as they secured the rights to host the event, a 32-team tournament. But insiders claim they could use it to their advantage by hosting such a prestigious Middle Eastern event and proving their dominance in the region.

Infantino, elected FIFA president in 2016 and seeking re-election to a four-year term in June, has been among the biggest proponents of an expanded World Cup that, through increased places for FIFA’s member associations and increased sponsorship revenues, could prove popular among countries that rarely get to compete in the tournament.

A final call on the idea was expected to be made next week when FIFA’s governing council meets in Miami, but Infantino has decided to move the final decision to FIFA’s annual Congress in June.

Qatar’s consent is needed for the change, but if it is approved then Infantino would most likely seek the approval of FIFA’s 211 member federations before going ahead with the plans.

Privately though, some senior members of the organizing committee who have been working on the event since Qatar secured it a decade ago are opposed to sharing the competition and are frustrated that it may happen. Qatar’s final position on the matter will be decided by its rulers, who may see political advantage in agreeing to include specific neighbouring nations.

While Infantino has suggested that sharing games with Qatar’s neighbors would help heal rifts in the region, a FIFA-led group conducting a feasibility study has concluded that it would be impractical to include the blockading countries, which also include Bahrain, in hosting plans, leaving Oman and Kuwait as favored choices.

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Author

Ahmed Naser is a UK-based journalist with a deep understanding of the Middle East. Ahmed is a contributor to a wide range of regional publications in the Middle East. He works across print and digital media as a freelance editor and writer.

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