FIFA is targeting two options for holding the 2022 World Cup in the winter in Qatar, and organizers think that is "ideal" for the Middle East.
After a meeting Monday about five proposals on when to play the tournament, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke quickly moved to slim down the field.
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"We are getting closer to narrowing the dates for the FIFA World Cup to two options -- January-February 2022 or November-December 2022," Valcke said in a FIFA statement.
Qatar's organizing committee leader, Hassan Al Thawadi, said for the first time that hosting the tournament in the searing heat of June and July, as originally scheduled, might not be the best solution.
"(Al Thawadi) outlined that, for the Middle East, the ideal situation and circumstances for an all-inclusive World Cup would be for it to be held in the winter," according to the FIFA statement.
Still, FIFA noted that Qatar "remained fully committed to delivering what was promised in its bid" — including stadium cooling technology to combat 40 degree C (104 degree F) temperatures during the traditional World Cup calendar dates.
The January-February option is favored by FIFA's confederations. At that time, many European countries are in mid-season breaks or in their offseason. Asia and Africa are used to playing their continental championships at the start of a year.
A January 2022 kickoff remains in play although it seems designed to fail. FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who is an IOC member, has assured IOC President Thomas Bach that the World Cup will not clash with the 2022 Winter Olympics.
The IOC is currently evaluating candidate cities Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan, to host a Winter Games expected to be held in February 2022.
The 214-member European Club Association has suggested the Olympics move its dates, and also proposed a World Cup from April 28-May 29.
That option has long been rejected by Valcke, who reiterated that the start of month-long Ramadan fasting on April 2, 2022, must also be considered.
The players' union, FIFPro, also opposes the clubs' spring plan because of the heat.
"The health and safety of the players is non-negotiable," FIFPro said in a statement. "Staging a World Cup in and around the oppressive summer months of Qatar is simply not an option."
European leagues suggested a compromise May-June tournament.
FIFA said the panel will meet early next year, likely in February, to assess reports from Valcke and Asian Football Confederation President Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain on proposals made at Monday's meeting.
"We are pleased with the level of detail provided by the participants and with the productive discussions that took place today," Sheik Salman said.
FIFA's executive committee could decide on the World Cup dates in March.