CONMEBOL, South America’s football confederation, has implored FIFA to increase the number of nations competing at the 2022 World Cup from 32 to 48.
FIFA is already planning to expand its finals in 2026, but CONMEBOL wants more South American nations to be represented in Qatar four years earlier.
In the current system, four South American nations automatically qualify or each World Cup, with the fifth-placed country entering an inter-confederation play-off.
A formal letter was presented to FIFA President Gianni Infantino, signed by CONMEBOL president Alejandro Dominguez and the region’s 10 member associations.
Dominguez, speaking at the confederation’s congress in Buenos Aires, said: “You all know that our qualifying system is the fairest, but it is also the most thankless.
“I have no doubt that if there is a confederation that has the capacity to properly rank all of its nations, that is CONMEBOL.
“As we want to do ourselves justice, I want to deliver a letter of application signed by 10 countries of CONMEBOL, so that the 2022 World Cup can be contested by 48 teams.”
Argentina last year struggled to qualify, squeezing into an automatic place, leaving Peru to negotiate a two-legged battle with New Zealand, which they won, while Dominguez’s Paraguay missed out.
An early expansion would allow FIFA to generate more revenue to replenish the coffers hit by corruption scandals. But increasing the number of games from 64 to 80 would pose additional logistical challenges for Qatar.
The first World Cup in the Middle East is already operating on a tight 28-day schedule to please club sides after FIFA shifted the event from its usual June-July slot to November-December because of the extreme heat. Qatar has plans to build eight stadiums, whereas bidders for the 48-team 2026 tournament have been told they need 12 venues.
One option to accommodate the additional games, rather than further straining the requirements on Qatar, would be to share games in the Gulf. Qatar won the FIFA vote in 2010 with a vision of the World Cup benefiting the Middle East but with all the games in the small desert nation.
Hopes of a unifying tournament for the region were eroded when Qatar’s neighbors, including Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, cut diplomatic ties last year. Even amid the escalating tensions, Qatar World Cup organising committee secretary general Hassan al-Thawadi did not rule out last year the possibility of sharing matches with neighbors.
“Qatar has always been open to dialogue,” Al Thawadi told The Associated Press. “It’s always been open and it’s always supported our brother nations, to the extent that if (sharing the World Cup) was the ultimate goal, all that would have required was a simple conversation.”
Dominguez also backed the prospect of a South America-hosted World Cup in 2030, given those finals will take place 100 years after the inaugural tournament in Uruguay in 1930.
“We are asking the World Cup to return home for its 100th birthday,” he added.
Information from Press Association Sport and The Associated Press was used in this report.