FIFA’s proposal to expand the Qatar 2022 World Cup from 32 teams to 48 teams would add to FIFA’s coffers, bringing in an estimated $1 billion more than a 32-team tournament, and would probably be popular among countries that either just scraped into the Russia 2018 World Cup or just missed out, but it also brings many of the weaknesses of Qatar’s controversial original bid for the tournament back to the surface.
Qatar originally proposed that it would host the World Cup in the summer, but the 2022 World Cup was moved to the winter to avoid Qatar’s fierce summer heat. This move will play havoc with global soccer schedules in the years surrounding the competition, and to try to mitigate this scheduling mess, the tournament is being squeezed into the shortest amount of time possible, 28 days rather than 32, with the final taking place on December 18th. But with 80 games to fit in rather than 64, that 28-day time-frame will have to be revisited and the 48-team winter World Cup will almost certainly require the current fixture schedule to be altered.
The move also highlights Qatar’s lack of existing soccer infrastructure. If the 2022 World Cup bid had been won by the United States, Japan, or Australia, then there would have been no problem finding the extra stadiums needed for a 48-team World Cup. Even South Korea has enough stadiums of the required size already built and needing just minor renovations.
Qatar on the other hand had to pretty much build its entire soccer infrastructure from scratch for the 32 team tournament, and many of the stadiums it is building are likely to be barely used after the World Cup is over. Even if it could rush build the four extra venues needed for a 48 team tournament, it would just be creating four white-elephants, something FIFA is supposedly keen to avoid.