Back in May, FIFA had suggested to expand the competition from 32 to 48 teams. The expansion from 32 to 48 teams for the 2022 World Cup would have required at least one neighbouring country of Qatar to co-host the tournament. But due to a nearly two-year long blockade imposed on Qatar by a Saudi-led quartet of countries, only Oman and Kuwait were valid candidates as Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain would have been required to lift the economic and travel bans on Qatar.

Oman said that it was not willing to co-host the World Cup, while FIFA concluded that Kuwait lacked the time required to prepare for the tournament. Besides, unlike Qatar which allows foreigners to drink alcohol, Kuwait has enforced a complete ban on alcohol, which would have been incompatible for Budweiser, a major sponsor of the World Cup.

Following a thorough and comprehensive consultation process with the involvement of all the relevant stakeholders, it was concluded that under the current circumstances such a proposal could not be made now, FIFA said in a statement

 

The 2022 World Cup is the first major sporting even to take place in the Middle East.

The 48-team format, has already been approved for the 2026 World Cup to take place in Canada, the United States and Mexico

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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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