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FIFA Council Approves Expansion of World Cup to 48 teams

The FIFA council has unanimously voted in favor of expanding the world cup from the current 32 to 48 teams starting with the 2026 edition.

The council on Tuesday morning confirmed they have approved adding 16 more teams which will be dived into groups of three, with the top two teams in each group moving on to the knockout round of 32.

The idea was brought up by the current FIFA president Gianni Infantino who lobbied for the increment reasoning that the move would bring more world involvement and in the process help FIFA increase the development of the game since they would have more money to invest in the spot.

The 211 delegates were asked to vote with five available options to choose from, the first two were 40-team plans, plus two more 48-team plans and of course the current 32-team model.

The 40 team options would have 10 groups of four or eight groups of five, while the other 48-team makeup would see a 32-team one-game knockout round with the winners joining 16 already-qualified teams.

The delegation unanimously chose the option of adding 16 extra spots to current 32 with 16 groups of three. Only the last side will be eliminated compared to the current format where the last two teams are eliminated.

The world Cup will threfore have 16 groups of three followed by a 32 team knock-out which will also move the number of games from 64 to 80 games though still in a 32 day schedule.

Defending the decision, Infantino was quick to point out that,

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”We have to shape the football World Cup of the 21st century.”[/perfectpullquote]

“No guarantees have been made,”

“The only sure thing is that obviously with 48 teams everyone will have a bit more than they have today.” He added.

Comparing to the $5.5 billion forecast expected from the 2018 World Cup in Russia, adding 16 more matches would earn FIFA an extra $1 billion in extra income coming from sponsorship deals, and ticket sales alone.

The allocation of the extra spots will be announced in May with Africa and Asia expected to be the big winners. Africa which currently has 4 spots in the current format is expected to get an extra three or four spots which will surely improve the development of the spot on the continent.

The decision of which country will host the event will be decided later on but North America are the current favorites with the United States of America, Canada and Mexico leading the odds to win the bid.

The decision was received with mixed feeling from most of football’s influential voices raising concerns about the change.

The Germany Football Association was the only body to publically criticize the event but most football coaches later joined in saying, having 80 games would not only dilute the value of the tournament but also bring more fatigue to the players.

They however later confirmed that they supported the decision alongside the other 210 members of the council.


Featured Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images

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