FIFA approves 26-man squads for World Cup to fight COVID-19

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FIFA has approved larger 26-man squads for the World Cup in Qatar, deciding on Thursday to extend the relaxation of football rules that help coaches and players during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The decision was expected from the FIFA Bureau – made up of the presidents of FIFA and the six football confederations – after the rosters of 23 players were expanded for the recent continental championships.

The addition of three players to the typical World Cup roster follows UEFA doing the same for the European Championship last year.

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Squads of 28 players have also been approved for the Copa América tournament in South America last year and for the Africa Cup of Nations in January.

The additional numbers help the coaches of the 32 teams deal with possible outbreaks of virus cases. It also means that additional players are already following health protocols within the camp in Qatar rather than being brought in from their home countries.

The change in squad size will send a total of 96 more players to the World Cup which will be played from November 21 to December 18. The 28-day tournament compares to 32 days four years ago in Russia.

Most of the additional players are likely to come from European clubs whose domestic seasons are due to end by November 13 for the first World Cup staged in the northern hemisphere winter.

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FIFA President Gianni Infantino answers questions during a press conference on the 2026 FIFA World Cup, Thursday, June 16, 2022, in New York.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino answers questions during a press conference on the 2026 FIFA World Cup, Thursday, June 16, 2022, in New York.
(TSWT Photo/Noah K. Murray)

The teams will only be together a week before the start of the tournament instead of the usual preparation time of around two weeks.

FIFA has set up a $209 million fund from its World Cup revenue to compensate clubs with a per diem rate of around several thousand dollars for the release of national team players.

World Cup teams can also now use five substitutes in the regular 90 minutes instead of three.

What started as an interim rule in 2020 to ease the workload of players in congested gaming schedules during the pandemic is now codified in the Laws of the Game.

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The FIFA Bureau has also set a presidential election for March 16 next year to be held in Kigali, Rwanda, during the annual congress of the 211 member federations.

The FIFA World Cup trophy is displayed during an event at the Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad cultural center in Kuwait City on May 16, 2022.

The FIFA World Cup trophy is displayed during an event at the Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad cultural center in Kuwait City on May 16, 2022.
(YASSER AL-ZAYYAT/TSWT via Getty Images)

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FIFA President Gianni Infantino is seeking a new four-year term to extend his tenure at world football’s governing body to 11 years.

No potential opponent has yet emerged and the TSWT to enter the competition is four months before the election. This will fall in mid-November, a few days before the start of the World Cup.

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