World football governing body FIFA has approved its President Gianni Infantino’s plan for a 48-country World Cup.
FIFA’s council members settled on the plan above four other options, one of which was to leave the tournament in its current 32-team format.
The new structure would feature 16 groups of three followed by a 32-team knockout.
It is scheduled to be implemented in time for the 2026 finals, FIFA has said.
FIFA Council unanimously decides on expansion of the FIFA World Cup to a 48-team competition as of 2026. https://t.co/zPRIt5lU0w— FIFA Media (@fifamedia) January 10, 2017
Under the upcoming arrangement, Africa would have 9 World Cup places, representing 16.6% of African teams who can qualify against the current 9.25%.
A major campaign message by Infantino prior to becoming President, it is seen as a major step towards getting more countries to be part of the tournament, one of sports’ biggest.
“This format can be played in exactly the same number of days, as today 32, that the team winning the tournament will play maximum 7 games, as today, that the tournament will take place in twelve stadiums, as today, that, on the upsides that 16 more countries, some of which probably would never have dreamt to participate in a World Cup will have the chance to participate and many more will have the chance to dream to participate in the World Cup. So, from our sides, at the FIFA Council a certainly a positive decision when it comes to football development. It was a unanimous decision.
“We are in the 21st Century. We have to shape the World Cup of the 21st Century. It’s not anymore the 20th Century, it is the future, we have to look into that, football is more than Europe and South America, football is global and again: one event in the same period one every four years, which will help to develop football, I think this is positive, the Council felt this is positive, Infantino said.
But critics of the plan which will see the number of matches rise from 64 to 80 includes the German Football Federation which is not represented on the FIFA council that voted.
Diluting quality for reasons of money, agendas and votes. Fifa yet to break free from its old culture … https://t.co/8udDvdl5MY— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) January 10, 2017