After a lot of discussion, FIFA officially announced Thursday afternoon that the start of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar this fall will be Nov. 20 rather than Nov. 21. That’s to let hosts Qatar continue the tradition of the hosts playing in the first match. But that means that Thursday is now 99 days before the start of the tournament, unfortunate for broadcasters like Telemundo that keyed announcements to Thursday being 100 days out, and it also means that the tournament will now feature one more Sunday, unfortunate for U.S. English-language broadcaster Fox Sports and their usual day-long slate of NFL coverage on fall Sundays. Here’s Fox relaying that FIFA announcement:
FIFA has announced the 2022 FIFA World Cup will now begin November 20th with hosts Qatar taking on Ecuador ???? pic.twitter.com/eiro5QZ3BO
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) August 11, 2022
As per the FIFA.com release on this, this match will kick off at 19:00 local. Qatar’s time zone is UTC+3 (Arabia Standard Time), and Eastern Standard Time is UTC-5. (Eastern Standard Time is the correct one to use here, as Daylight Saving Time, where the Eastern time zone is UTC-4, ends on Nov. 6.) So a 7 p.m. local kickoff would be 11 a.m. Eastern, and so that Qatar-Ecuador match should end around 1 p.m. Eastern, right when Fox is set to roll its first slate of NFL games. So there isn’t a direct NFL game conflict with this World Cup match.
But it will interesting to see how Fox handles this given their NFL pregame show commitments. Their affiliates usually air Fox NFL Kickoff from 11 a.m. Eastern to noon Eastern, and then Fox NFL Sunday from noon Eastern to 1 p.m. Eastern, leading into those first game broadcasts. We’ll see if they proceed with that plan as normal and push this opening World Cup match to FS1 (certainly possible, considering that neither of the sides here feel like big viewership draws), or if they put the NFL pregame shows on cable and air the World Cup match on broadcast. Either of those decisions will likely lead to some backlash.
And a big part of the issue here is with this decision being made so close to the tournament’s start. The idea of having the hosts play in the first match has been long established. So it’s sort of remarkable that FIFA only came up with this change 100 (or 99) days before the tournament was set to start.
If the World Cup match does wind up airing on the Fox broadcast network, it will be interesting to see if some local affiliates opt out. It will also be worth keeping an eye on any potential stoppage time overrun from the World Cup match. If that winds up going late, that could see a NFL game’s kickoff not shown. And that might irritate a whole lot of people.