Everything you need to know about 48-team World Cup

Everything you need to know about 48-team World Cup

FIFA has backed president Gianni Infantino’s plan to expand the game’s showpiece event from 32 teams to 48 – here, Goal gives you the lowdown on what happened and why

 It’s the end of the World Cup as we know it. On Tuesday, FIFA voted in favour of expanding its flagship tournament to 48 teams and, unsurprisingly, the change of format, which is the brainchild of new president Gianni Infantino, is already provoking heated debate across the world.

In the interest of reason and rationality, Goal is here to bring you all of the facts and figures behind the most important alteration to the World Cup since 1998.

WHAT WAS THE VOTE ALL ABOUT?

Expansion. At present, the World Cup is made up of 32 teams, who are divided into eight groups of four, with the top two in each pool progressing to the knockout stage. This has been the format since France 1998 and will also be the format for Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022.

However, in 2026, we will have 48 participants and it’s all down to Infantino. The Italian succeeded Sepp Blatter as FIFA president last year and one of his key election promises was to increase the size of the World Cup. He initially pushed for a 40-team tournament before eventually proposing to invite a further eight nations to the party.

“FIFA’s idea is to develop football in the whole world and the World Cup is the biggest event there is,” he explained last year. “It’s more than a competition; it’s a social event!” And a very lucrative one at that.

FIFA expects to make €5.2 billion from the 2018 World Cup in Russia and, based on those projections, its number-crunchers believe that a 48-team World Cup will generate a further €950 million in revenue.

Thus, in order to make the event bigger than ever before, Infantino proposed having 48 qualifiers, to be divided up into 16 groups of three teams, with the top two in each pool going through to the round of 32.

However, there were four other options available to the voters:

– A 48-team tournament featuring an initial round of 32, with the winners of those knockout games then joining 16 seeded teams in the main event

– A 40-team tournament with 10 groups of four that would see all of the group winners but just six of the runners-up reach the last 16

– A 40-team tournament consisting of eight groups of five teams, with the top two going through to the knockout stage

– Retaining the present format of 32 teams in eight groups of four

WHAT HAPPENED?

The 37 FIFA Council members voted unanimously in favour of their president’s proposal – and that wasn’t the least bit surprising. Indeed, Infantino had claimed beforehand that he had the support of the six major federations (UEFA, CONCACAF, CONMEBOL, AFC, CAF, OFC).

“They are all clearly in favour of a World Cup with more teams,” he stated at the International Sports Conference in Dubai in December.

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho had also given the idea his full support. “I’m totally in favour,” the Portuguese told FIFA’s official website. “As a club manager, if the expansion meant more games, less holidays and less pre-season for players, I would say no.

“But it’s important for critics to analyse and understand that expansion doesn’t mean more matches. Players are protected and clubs are protected in this way.”

Indeed, while Infantino’s ideal 48-team tournament means more matches overall, increasing from 64 to 80, the winners will still only have to play seven games and the length of the tournament will remain unchanged.

WAS ANYONE AGAINST THE EXPANSION?

Yes, absolutely. The European Club Association (ECA) were – and are – worried about a dilution in quality, as happend at the expaned European Championship in France last summer, with Karl-Heinz Rummenigge suggesting that FIFA are attempting to extract more money from their biggest cash cow at the expense of the game.

“In the interest of the fans and the players, we urge Fifa not to increase the number of World Cup participants,” the ECA chairman stated last year. “Politics and commerce should not be the exclusive priority in football.”

There are also already concerns that the three-team groups could easily result in sides playing out mutually beneficial draws in their final group game in order to ensure that both progress to the knockout stage. This has already sparked speculation that penalty shootouts may have to be introduced to settle matches that end level after 90 minutes.

WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

We first listen to Infantino tell us why this is such a great development for the global game and wait for the precise details of how exactly the new, ‘improved’ format will work.

As of the time of writing, we are not expecting FIFA to announce how the 16 additional World Cup berths will be divided up between the six federations.

As it stands, there are 30 guaranteed berths – UEFA (13 teams); CONMEBOL (5); CAF (5), CONCACAF (3); AFC (4) – with the two other slots dependent upon play-offs between CONMEBOL and the AFC, and CONCACAF and the OFC.

However, it is highly likely that there will be significant increases for Asia, Africa and North America, as well as at least one automatic qualification place for the OFC.

As for the venue for the 2026 World Cup, it’s CONCACAF’s ‘turn’, with the United States, Canada and Mexico considering a first tri-hosted tournament. However, Colombia is also in the running. The South Americans were selected to stage the 1986 edition but had to hand it over to Mexico due to financial problems.

So, there are still some big decisions to be made. All we now know for sure is that the 2026 World Cup will, for better or for worse, have 48 teams for the first time ever.

aljazirah adverts


follow us on twitter @aljazirahnewsng
Like us on Facebook @aljazirahnewsng

Share This:

Related Posts

Ex-FIFA Secretary-General challenges 10 year ban The former right hand man of ex-Fifa President Sepp Blatter, on Tuesday appealed against his 10 year ban from football. Jerome Valcke, who was Secretary-General of the sport’s world governing body, was banned last year  for his alleged involvement in a scheme to profit from World Cup ticket sales. ...
Odegbami: The World Cup – Africa’s turn again! One week into 2017 permit me to repeat a story I have told a few times before in several media in the past 13 years. I am doing so again only because I watched an interview on CNN of Gianni Infantino, President of FIFA, on the eve of the New Year that should interest West Africans. Infantino s...
Agu: World Cup Expansion Good For Africa Super Eagles goalkeeper trainer Alloy Agu has backed Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) in their bid to increase the number of teams that will participate in the 2026 World Cup to 48, Completesportsnigeria.com reports.‎ ‎ At the FIFA Council meeting held on Tuesday in Zurich, ...
Snubbing FIFA and referee rants – are Barcelona morphi... The Catalan club's refusal to send players to Zurich and constant officiating complaints are reminiscent of when the Portuguese coached Real. "Messi and I are here every year," said Cristiano Ronaldo at the gala ahead of the FIFA Ballon d'Or last January. But not this time, because Barcelona have...
FIFA approves 48-team World Cup Controversial proposals to increase the size of the competition have won the backing of the game's governing body, splitting opinion in the game  FIFA has voted unanimously to expand the World Cup to a 48-team tournament in 2026. The new format, which will see the finals comprising 16 groups of ...
Revealed: Pogba, Neymar & Buffon OUT of FIFA FIFPro Wor... The high-profile trio have failed to make the team of the year set to be revealed at The Best FIFA Football Awards gala in Zurich on Monday night Paul Pogba, Neymar and Gianluigi Buffon are all absent from the 2016 FIFA FIFPro World 11, Goal can confirm. Manchester United star Pogba became the...
FIFA invites Pinnick to Best Football Awards ceremony The World football governing body, FIFA has invited the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF’s) President, Amaju Pinnick, to Monday’s The Best FIFA Football Awards 2016 ceremony taking place in Zurich,Switzerland. This is according to a statement by Ademola Olajire, the NFF’s spokesman and made avail...
Amos Adamu could face additional two-year ban from football The deposed Fifa chief may see his punishment for bribery extended, as the ethics committee looks into the original judgement  Amos Adamu could yet face another two years ban from all football-related activity after the investigatory chamber of Fifa's ethics committee for breaching the body’s cod...
Theresa May says FIFA poppy stance ‘utterly outrageous... Prime Minister Theresa May has condemned world football's ruling body over its "utterly outrageous" ban on international players wearing poppies. England and Scotland meet at Wembley on November 11, Armistice Day, and there had been hopes that players would wear commemorative shirts. But accor...
World Cup: Fifa president Gianni Infantino wants 48-team tou... Fifa president Gianni Infantino has proposed expanding the World Cup finals to 48 teams - after initially suggesting he wanted to boost it to 40. According to the 46-year-old Italian, 16 countries would be eliminated after a preliminary knockout round. The rest of the tournament would then be th...
Fifa says anti-racism taskforce had ‘completed work... Fifa has defended its decision to scrap an anti-racism taskforce, saying it had completed the work it set out to do. The Fifa Taskforce Against Racism and Discrimination was set up in 2013 to develop recommendations for tackling the issue. Critics have questioned the dismantling of the group, sa...
Franz Beckenbauer investigated over Germany World Cup corrup... Franz Beckenbauer is under criminal investigation by Swiss prosecutors regarding Germany's hosting of the 2006 World Cup. German news magazine Der Speigel had claimed Beckenbauer was now facing a probe into his role on the organising committee over alleged money laundering and breach of trust aft...
2026 World Cup: Africa to get additional slots FIFA President Gianni Infantino has said that Africa would get additional two slots from the 2026 edition of the World Cup. Infantino who said this in Abuja during his interaction with the newsmen noted that the idea was part of his vision to transform football in Africa. ``I promised few thin...

Tags assigned to this article:
48-teamfifaworld cup