FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s dream for a 48-team World Cup edged closer to reality after he said had had widespread support for the move.
Infantino stated that he had large support as national football federations were “overwhelmingly in favour” of the idea.
If implemented, the World Cup would be broken down into 16 groups of 3 teams each. The top 2 teams in each group would then qualify for a round-of-32 knockout round.
“The 48-team (16×3) format would appear to offer the most tangible and intangible value,” FIFA said in a statement.
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The last time the number of teams at the World Cup changed was 1998, when teams increased from 24 to 32.
The total number of matches would rise from 64 to 80, and FIFA says this appeals to broadcasters and sponsors as it would raise more income. FIFA however said money is not behind the decision, as “the goal of expanding the World Cup is to further advance the vision to promote the game of football, protect its integrity and bring the game to all.”
A decision would be made when FIFA’s ruling council meets next month. If agreed, it would be first implemented in the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
Infantino promised a number of changes in his manifesto, also including video technology, which was tried out at the 2016 Club World Cup. He regarded the experiments as positive, and revealed that it could be used at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.