President of world football governing body, FIFA, Gianni Infantino’s plan to increase the number of teams participating in the World Cup has been approved.
FIFA’s ruling council on Tuesday, unanimously approved an expansion of the World Cup to 48 teams in 2026, with a format of 16 groups of three nations.
A tweet from FIFA’s official account reads; “The FIFA Council unanimously decided on a 48-team #WorldCup as of 2026: 16 groups of 3 teams.”
The decision marks a major coup for the body’s president Gianni Infantino who has made enlarging football’s showcase event the centerpiece of his young administration.
The controversial proposal has faced criticism from some of the sport’s most powerful voices, including warnings that it would dilute the quality of play and overburden already exhausted players.
But Infantino had in recent weeks voiced confidence that his flagship project would be approved. While noting that a bigger tournament would bring in more money, the FIFA chief has also argued that more World Cup berths would help drive football’s global growth.
Prior to his election in February 2016, Infantino pledged to enlarge the tournament, a promise designed especially to appeal to the bulk of FIFA’s 211 member associations that never got a chance or rarely qualify for World Cups.
Africa and Asia could be the big winners in a larger format with a rise in their number of places, currently at 5 and 4.5 respectively. But in order to smooth over scepticism about World Cup reform within UEFA, it is likely that Europe will also see its allotments rise above the current 13 places.
European football governing body, UEFA are requesting for at least 16 places for teams in Europe, while Africa and Asia could see allocation increasing from four places each. USA, Canada and Mexico are ready to host the finals in 2026.