FIFA decided on Tuesday to expand the World Cup to 48 teams from the current 32, starting with the 2026 edition of the tournament.
The international football organisation's decision making body, the FIFA Council, also decided that the format would consist of 16 groups of three teams in the group stage.
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
TRT World's Vanessa Conneely reports.
Money over quality?
FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who replaced the disgraced Sepp Blatter in February, had made World Cup expansion one of his promises during his successful electoral campaign.
The FIFA chief has noted that a bigger tournament would beef up FIFA's coffers.
A confidential FIFA report seen by Agence France-Presse projects a 48-team tournament would bring a cash boost of $640 million above projected revenues for next year's finals in Russia.
FIFA brushed aside concerns that the expansion would lower the overall standard of the tournament and make it too long and complex.
Powerful European clubs, as well as some leading coaches, have said that FIFA is tampering with a winning formula.
TRT World's Samantha Johnson has more.
Timeline of changes to the World Cup
- 1930: The first World Cup final kicked off with 13 teams in Uruguay, including four European nations – Belgium, France, Romania, and Yugoslavia.
- 1934: Expanded to 16 teams for the tournament in Italy, after a qualifying stage for the first time.
- 1938: Only 15 teams take part in France after Austria, which had just been annexed by Nazi Germany, withdraws.
- 1950: The World Cup returns after World War II – the previous two editions having being cancelled – with 13 teams competing in Brazil.
- 1954: Hosted by Switzerland, the tournament returns to the 16-team format.
- 1970: The World Cup in Mexico is one of firsts – introduction of substitutes (two) during a match; red and yellow cards and tournament televised in colour. Format unchanged.
- 1982: As FIFA looks for new revenues, the World Cup in Spain witnessed a small revolution with the passage from 16 to 24 teams and 52 matches played.
- 1986: This edition in Mexico won by Diego Maradona's Argentina introduces a knockout round of last 16 and quarter-finals.
- 1998: The tournament organised in France moves to 32 teams. 174 teams participated in qualifiers.
- 2002: For the first time the World Cup is jointly hosted by two countries – Japan and South Korea. Brazil win for a fifth time.
- 2010: The first World Cup hosted on the African continent. Format unchanged.
- 2022: To avoid the searing summer heat, the World Cup in Qatar will take place for the first time in winter, from November 21 to December 18 in the Gulf state.
- 2026: FIFA approved an expansion to 48 teams in the 2026 World Cup, with a format of 16 groups of three nations.