The FIFA Council on Tuesday has approved the expansion of the football World Cup from a 32-team event to a 48-team event from the 2026 edition. The move, welcomed by many as 'inclusive', will be the first structural change to the tournament since 1998 when participation was increased from 24 to 32.
The FIFA World Cup, which started with 13 teams in Uruguay in 1930, has undergone a lot of changes over the years. The 2026 edition, the host of which is yet to be decided after the bidding process was delayed amid allegations of corruption within the governing body, will now see 48 teams participating after FIFA voted the change through
There will be an initial stage of 16 groups, each containing three teams, and two teams will progress from each of these groups to the first knockout round of 32 teams. There will be an increase in the number of matches in the tournament from 64 to 80. However, the eventual winner will play seven matches like they do in the current format.
A lot of European clubs were against the expansion, pointing to the already-packed football calendar. However, the 48-team tournament will be completed within 32 days keeping that in mind. Fifa president Gianni Infantino, who has always stressed on the need for the World Cup to be more ‘inclusive’, has been the mastermind behind this move.
Back in December, Infantino had said that the expansion will benefit “the development of football all over the world", and added that "there is nothing bigger in terms of boosting football in a country than participating in a World Cup”. Although, Infantino has said that the decision is not “financially driven”, according to Fifa's own research, revenue is predicted to increase to £5.29bn for a 48-team tournament, giving a potential profit rise of £521m.
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