FIFA on Thursday approved raising the squad for the Qatar World Cup to a maximum of 26 players, extending the easing of rules during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was assumed that the FIFA Council Bureau, made up of the FIFA president and the presidents of the six confederations, would approve the change, as rosters of 23 players were expanded at recent continental tournaments.

The addition of three players to the World Cup squads emulates the measure that UEFA introduced for the European Championship to be played in 2021.

For its part, CONMEBOL approved calls for 28 players for the Copa América last year, and the same happened with the African Cup of Nations in January.

With a greater number of players available, the managers of the 32 teams would better deal with possible outbreaks of coronavirus in their ranks. It also implies being able to count on additional players who are complying with the sanitary protocols within the concentrations in Qatar instead of bringing them from their countries.

The change in roster size means an additional 96 players will attend the World Cup from November 31 to December 18. The tournament will have 28 days of competition compared to 32 four years ago in Russia.

Most of the additional players will come from European clubs, whose domestic seasons will have to stop no later than November 13, with a view to the first World Cup to be held in the northern hemisphere winter.

The teams will have a week to work before the start of the tournament, as opposed to the usual period of two weeks beforehand.

FIFA has created a fund of 209 million dollars, money that comes from the income generated by the World Cup, to compensate clubs for releasing players to perform with national teams.

In addition, the teams in the World Cup will be able to make five substitutions during the 90 regulation minutes instead of the traditional three.

What began as an interim rule in 2020 in the face of physical wear and tear caused by match-heavy schedules during the match has become a fixture in the football regulations.

The FIFA Council Bureau also set March 16 next year for the holding of the governing body’s presidential elections in Kigali, Rwanda. This will take place during the annual congress of the 211 member federations.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino aspires to a new four-year term and with this he would reach 11 years at the helm of the organization.

A possible rival to face Infantino has not yet emerged. There are four months left to apply before the elections, just before the opening of the World Cup in Qatar.

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