World Cup increase to 48 teams at 2022 finals is 50/50 - FIFA

Handout picture released by Brazilian Presidency showing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (C), FIFA President Gianni Infantino (L) and Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) President Rogerio Caboclo posing during a meeting at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, on Wednesday. — AFP

RIO DE JANEIRO — The chances of FIFA increasing the number of teams at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar from 32 to 48 is 50/50, the president of soccer's governing body Gianni Infantino said on Wednesday.

Infantino, who is in Brazil for a meeting of the South American Football Confederation, told delegates he was working to ensure the increase for the Qatar tournament, which would mean a guaranteed two extra places for South American sides.

"We are working to see if we can get 48 teams in the 2022 World Cup because more participation means more development and more passion for everyone," he said.

"We’ll see by June whether it is possible or not. (It’s) 50/50. What is 100 percent is that the 2022 World Cup is going to be spectacular and a total success."

A final decision on the number of teams for the next finals will be taken at the FIFA Congress in Paris on June 5.

FIFA chose to host the 2022 World Cup for 32 teams in Qatar, although Infantino has sounded out neighbors over their willingness to host some matches in an expanded tournament.

FIFA has already agreed to increase the number of teams to 48 for the 2026 tournament being co-hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico but is keen to expand quicker than planned.

US handed chance for

revenge in Gold Cup draw

Hosts and defending champions the United States were handed the chance to extract a measure of revenge for missing out on the 2018 World Cup when they were grouped with Panama and Trinidad and Tobago in the draw for this year's Gold Cup on Wednesday.

Panama beat Costa Rica 2-1 on the last day of qualifying for Russia 2018, and that result, combined with a loss in Trinidad for the US, sent the Central Americans off to their first World Cup. The US were absent for the first time since 1986.

Guyana, one of two nations making their debut in the continental competition, will complete Group D, the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) said.

In the other groups announced in Los Angeles, Costa Rica were drawn with Haiti, Nicaragua and debutants Bermuda in Group B, while seeds Honduras are in Group C along with Jamaica, El Salvador and Curacao.

Group A features seven-times champions Mexico, Canada, Martinique and Cuba.

The continental championship will kick off in Pasadena on June 15 with a double header of Canada v Martinique and Mexico v Cuba. The final will be played in Chicago on July 7.

This year’s tournament has been expanded from 12 to 16 teams and for the first time since it began in 1991 three different nations will host games, with Jamaica and Costa Rica featuring as co-hosts alongside the United States.

Former German FA chief Grindel

steps down from UEFA and FIFA

Former German Football Association (DFB) president Reinhard Grindel on Wednesday announced his resignation in Berlin from the world and European soccer bodies, FIFA and UEFA, after leaving the DFB last week over an expensive gift.

Grindel had had to apologize for accepting an expensive watch from a Ukrainian colleague as a gift, and said he had not known its value. Now he said he was also leaving his UEFA Vice Presidency and his seat on the FIFA Executive Council.

"I am mainly interested in protecting the good name of UEFA," he said in a statement. I also do not want to burden FIFA on its path to more transparency and good governance."

Grindel, who took over the world's biggest sports federation by membership in 2016, had come under pressure over income he received from a DFB subsidiary and a watch he had been given by Ukrainian businessman and soccer administrator Grigory Surkis.

While denying any wrongdoing, Grindel said last week he had been unaware that the watch was worth 6,000 euros ($6,750.00). On Wednesday he again said he had done nothing wrong and that there had been no conflict of interest.

During his time as DFB chief, Grindel was criticized for his handling of the case of German national player Mesut Ozil, who had his photograph taken alongside Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan prior to last year's World Cup.

Ozil retired from the national team after Germany's shock first round exit and said he had faced "racism and disrespect" because of his Turkish roots.

Grindel criticized Germany coach Joachim Loew last month after he dropped Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng and Thomas Mueller from the national team, before rowing back on his comments. — Agencies