The World Cup will expand to 48 teams from its current 32, starting with the 2026 edition of soccer’s showpiece tournament, the game’s governing body FIFA decided on Tuesday. FIFA’s decision making body, the FIFA Council, also decided that the format would consist of 16 groups of three teams in the group stage. (Ronaldo, Fifa Player of the Year — His best goals in 2016)
The FIFA Council unanimously decided on a 48-team #WorldCup as of 2026:
16 groups of 3 teams. Details to follow after the meeting.— FIFA Media (@fifamedia) January 10, 2017
“The FIFA Council unanimously decided on a 48-team World Cup as of 2026: 16 groups of 3 teams. Details to follow after the meeting,” FIFA said on its Twitter feed.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who replaced the disgraced Sepp Blatter in February, had made FIFA World Cup expansion one of his promises during his successful electoral campaign.
Infantino had initially suggested a 40-team tournament but then added another eight to that total in October.
In making the decision, FIFA brushed aside concerns that the expansion would lower the overall standard of the tournament, and make it too long and unwieldy.
Critics, including the powerful European clubs as well as some leading coaches, have said that FIFA is tampering with a winning formula.
Diego Maradona welcomes #FIFA move to introduce a 48-team World Cup from 2026 https://t.co/Jx0NuI8fuF pic.twitter.com/fbg3eiVlXs— HT Sports (@HTSportsNews) January 10, 2017
The last World Cup in Brazil was widely regarded as one of the best in the competition’s 87-year-old history, featuring shock results, last minute drama and outstanding individual performances.
Maradona welcomes FIFA move
“This will give more possibilities to countries that have never reached that level of competition. “The quality will not fall,” Diego Maradona said
Former French international David Trezeguet said more World Cup berths would give “possibilities to countries and especially players who have never experienced this beautiful competition.”