The 2022 World Cup in Qatar will be played with 32 teams after a proposed expansion of the tournament to 48 sides was scrapped, FIFA announced on Wednesday.
World football’s governing body said in a statement that “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”.
“(The tournament) will therefore remain as originally planned with 32 teams and no proposal will be submitted at the next FIFA Congress on 5 June,” FIFA added.
An announcement of the final decision hadn’t been expected until the congress, which is being held in Paris ahead of the Women’s World Cup.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino had supported the increase in the size of the tournament.
However, the statement said that the study “concluded that due to the advanced stage of preparations and the need for a detailed assessment of the potential logistical impact on the host country, more time would be required and a decision could not be taken before the deadline of June”.
That led to FIFA dropping the idea, despite the organisation recommending in March that the number of teams should be raised to 48 for 2022, ahead of the planned 2026 World Cup in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Expanding the competition for the 2022 tournament was always a complicated proposition. FIFA had sounded out potential co-hosts in the region willing to support Qatar, a complicated proposition for Doha which is subject to an ongoing embargo by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and their allies.
Last week Hassan al-Thawadi, the secretary general of Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, said that a feasibility study jointly carried out by FIFA and Qatar would favour “expansion to other countries”.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain cut all ties with Doha in June 2017, accusing Qatar of supporting Iran and other groups.
Qatar denies the charges and says Saudi and its allies aim to incite government change in the emirate, the world’s largest exporter of liquified natural gas.
Gulf states Kuwait and Oman have not taken sides in the crisis, however, in April Oman announced it was “not ready” to host matches.