FIFA president announces plans for 48-team World Cup

Date published: Wednesday 7th December 2016 11:40

FIFA president Gianni Infantino is pushing for an expansion of the World Cup in 2026 to 48 teams, with his preferred format being 16 groups of three teams before a straight knock-out competition.

In a letter to members of the FIFA Council, the governing body’s 32-strong executive board, Infantino outlined five different options for consideration at next month’s key meeting in Zurich.

Those choices are leaving the tournament at 32 teams, expanding to 40 teams with either 10 groups of four or eight groups of five, or moving to 48 teams with either a 32-team play-off round to decide who joins 16 seeded teams in the current format or 16 three-team groups.

Press Association Sport understands that Infantino, who is determined to increase the number of teams at the finals, favours the latter option after feedback to the three other expansion plans pointed out various flaws.

The 16-group format has the benefit of guaranteeing every team at least two games but does raise concerns about some of the final group-stage matches being dead rubbers.

It would, however, see the number of games increase from the current 64 to 80, if the third-place play-off is retained.

A vote on these proposals will take place at the council’s next meeting on January 9-10 but a final decision on where the 2026 World Cup will be staged is not scheduled until May 2020.

The United States is the current favourite, although that may be in combination with either Canada or Mexico, or both.

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