FIFA increases World Cup rosters but not the delegation size it will pay for

Canada's coach John Herdman reacts during a qualifying soccer match against Mexico for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 in Mexico City, on Oct. 7, 2021. (Fernando Llano/AP)

Teams at the World Cup in Qatar will be allowed a roster of 23 to 26 players, up from 23 in past tournaments.

But while the player roster has been increased, FIFA has not changed the number of people in each country’s delegation that it is willing to pay for when it comes to travel and accommodation. As at the 2018 tournament in Russia, the world governing body of soccer will pay for business-class return flights “for up to 50 delegation members.”

FIFA will also cover board and lodging “for up to 50 people from each participating member association.”

Team delegations can be larger, if they pay the extra cost.

“We’ll have to make it work,” Canada Soccer general secretary Earl Cochrane, whose association is not known for its overflowing coffers, said of the FIFA limit.

So while it seems unlikely that Canada coach John Herdman would opt for the lower end of the roster size, it is allowed.

“That will be up to John to decide how many players we bring and how many staff we bring,” Cochrane said in an interview Wednesday. “And we’ll have to adjust financially to what that ask is.

“He’s well down the line of at least thinking about what his staff complement looks like, I think. But that’s a decision up to John — how many players. Does he take the full 26 complement? That’s a technical decision. That’s for him to decide.”

Given Qatar marks Canada’s first trip to the men’s soccer showcase since 1986 and the fact that Canada is co-hosting the 2026 tournament with the U.S. and Mexico, there is much to learn at the tournament for both Canadian players and staff.

And Canada’s players, currently involved in a contract impasse with Canada Soccer, would likely not appreciate it if the Qatar roster was at the low end of the scale.

FIFA decided in June to increase the player roster for Qatar, citing “the need to retain additional flexibility due to the unique timing of the FIFA World Cup 2022 in the global calendar, as well as the broader context of the disruptive effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic on squads before and during tournaments.”

Competing teams have until Nov. 13 to submit their final roster, which include three goalkeepers. The tournament kicks off Nov. 20 with the 43rd-ranked Canadian men opening Nov. 23 against No. 2 Belgium.

The Canadians are currently in Europe, preparing for friendlies Friday against No. 48 Qatar in Vienna and next Tuesday against No. 13 Uruguay in Bratislava, Slovakia.

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