The prospect of the Qatar 2022 World Cup being held in the winter moved a step closer as FIFA president Sepp Blatter endorsed the move away from the blazing Middle Eastern summer.
Speaking to a media roundtable in the Qatari capital Doha before the opening match of the Asian Cup on Friday, he said: "I expect it will be held in the winter because when you play football you must protect the main people, the players.
"We have time to look at this question, it is still 11 years away but we must decide the most adequate period for a successful World Cup which means January or the end of the year.
"We will take it up at our executive committee meeting in March."
Qatar was awarded the right to host the tournament last month despite summer temperatures in the Gulf state soaring to well over 40C.
Concerns have been raised about the health impacts of playing and spectating in such searing heat, although the Qatar organisers say they will have cooling technology in the stadiums.
German legend Franz Beckenbauer, a FIFA executive committee member, and England coach Fabio Capello are among others who have voiced support for a switch of dates.
UEFA president Michel Platini is also said to be sympathetic to the idea, with January temperatures hovering around a more comfortable 20C.
But any change would have major implications for domestic competitions in Britain and the rest of Europe where the league programmes would be in full swing.
"Maybe people will think that if we organise the World Cup in the middle of the season when the players are still very fit, can still produce, can still can get better results, it will be better"
Mohamed bin Hammam, AFC President
There is the issue of how much time players would need to recover afterwards – raising the possibility that domestic leagues would not resume until March.
Staging a World Cup in January could help players produce their best form as they would not be suffering from end-of-season burnout, Asian Football Confederation President Mohamed Bin Hammam, a Qatari, said this week.
"If you follow the organisation of the World Cup, usually the coaches are complaining that their players are exhausted by the end of the season," he said.
"In June and July many of the players are fed up of any football, which is why FIFA came with the idea to finish the seasons and the leagues earlier by at least two weeks.
"Maybe people will think that if we organise the World Cup in the middle of the season when the players are still very fit, can still produce, can still can get better results, it will be better for the players, the coaches and good for the World Cup."
Blatter said FIFA had yet to be approached by Qatar about a change of dates.
"They need to bring together an organising committee, then if they have any wishes on whether they want to change the basic conditions prevailing at the bidding process, then they have to make this demand of the FIFA Executive Committee," he said.
"The Executive Committee is free to change anything."
Blatter, who is seeking re-election later this year for another four-year term, once again defended his executive committee's decision to hand the tournament to Qatar.
"It is a logical move to go to new territories. It's not only Qatar, but a new culture and the Arab world," he said.
"You can have the best report in the world or the worst report but finally it is human beings who make the decisions.
"Reports are important and we published them to be transparent. All committee members knew exactly what will happen when we go to Qatar, and that is why some have already said we should play in winter."
Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United States also bid for the 2022 World Cup.