It seems that FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s proposal of a more extensive FIFA World Cup has finally materialised as the World Cup committeehas unanimously approved of expanding the World Cupto 48 teams from 2026 onwards, adding 16 extra nations. The decision came after much pondering as different countries had different views on expanding and changing the World Cup format for the forthcoming iterations in the future, making it the first change in the tournament make-up since the 1998 FIFA World cup.
Prior to the announcement, many International footballing councils have expressed various views regarding Infantino’s decision for expanding the biggest footballing tournament in the world.Reinhard Grindel, the president of the soccer federation of Germany, the reigning World Cup champion, encapsulated other arguments against the plan last week when he publicly warned that the overall quality of play would be diluted and that the increased burdens on players could cause rifts between clubs and national teams. On the other hand, England and the other home nations came out in support for Infantino’s move backing him in the process.
The World Cup has used a 32-team format since the 1998 tournament in France and will keep that format for the coming competitions in Russia in 2018 and in Qatar in 2022. But beginning in 2026 — in a tournament for which the bidding to host has not yet begun — 48 teams will be placed into 16 three-team groups for the first stage, with the top two teams from each group advancing to a 32-team knockout round.
Also, the expansion to the World Cup format is also pegged to prove quite beneficial for the football governing body on a financial front.With 80 matches instead of 64, FIFA forecasts $1 billion extra income from broadcasting and sponsor deals, plus ticket sales, compared to $5.5 billion forecast for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The 2026 World Cup is slated to take place in the United States while the 2030 World Cup will most probably be hosted in China.