FIFA have been asked to expand the number of teams that will qualify for the 2022 World Cup from 32 to 48, in a move that could boost the Republic of Ireland’s hopes of qualifying.
The Associated Press are reporting that the South American football association have made a request to FIFA to bring forward their planned expansion of the World Cup by four years, with the revamped tournament featuring 80 games rather than the current format of 64.
The last World Cup expansion was introduced back in 1998, when the 24-team tournament was increased to the current 32-team event, with 13 slots currently available for European nations and a 14th added this summer as Russia are hosts.
Proposals for the new-look tournament suggest the opening phase will consist of 16 three-team groups, with the top two in each group moving forward to a 32-nation knock-out tournament.
The 48-team format would feature 16 European nations, with the proposal to introduce the new look competition for Qatar 2022 offering a real challenge for FIFA as they have already moved the event to a November/December 28-day time slot that is forcing major European leagues to re-arrange their calendars.
Adding more matches to the event may force organisers to try and extend the competition, while additional venues may also be required to fit in the additional fixtures.
FIFA were planning to introduce a 48-team World Cup for the 2026 edition of the competition, with a venue for that event yet to be decided upon.