FIFA has voted unanimously to expand the World Cup to a 48-team tournament in 2026.
President Gianni Infantino had laid out plans for such an expansion as part of his campaign for the top job at world football’s governing body last year.
The 37 Council members were asked to select their favourite from five proposals: two involving a 48-team set-up, two 40-team tournaments, and the current 32-team format.
Infantino’s proposal had won backing from a number of officials, including Nigerian Football Federation president Amaju Pinnick, said on Monday that “most of Africa is excited about it”.
There will be a total of 80 games under the new format. Currently, in the 32-team schedule, 64 matches are played overall.
But if a team finishes in the last four in the 2026 tournament, they will have played seven matches, the same number as a 32-team World Cup.
There were also options for the 37-member FIFA Council to vote for a 40-team tournament, with 10 groups of four or eight groups of five, but the only other 48-team proposal saw a 32-team one-game knockout round with the winners joining 16 already-qualified teams.
European places at the competition will likely rise from 13 to 16. Africa and Asia could have as many as nine teams each. At the 2014 World Cup in Brazil they had five and four teams respectively. FIFA could decide by May how many entries each continent has.
The other major decision regarding 2026 – who will host the event – is not scheduled for consideration until 2020 with a bid featuring the United States, either on its own or in conjunction with one or both of Canada and Mexico, an early favourite.
Extra teams also means increased revenue for FIFA. Their research suggests that an expanded tournament would rake in an additional £521million profit on the current format.
They have calculated that tournament revenue would increase to £5.29billion with 48 teams, working on the projected revenue of next year’s 32-team World Cup in Russia.