As reported by AS on Sunday FIFA's ruling council on Tuesday unanimously approved an expansion of the World Cup to 48 teams in 2026, with a format of 16 groups of three nations.
16 groups of 3
"The FIFA Council unanimously decided on a 48-team World Cup as of 2026: 16 groups of 3 teams," a tweet from FIFA's official account said.
The FIFA Council unanimously decided on a 48-team #WorldCup as of 2026:— FIFA Media (@fifamedia) January 10, 2017
16 groups of 3 teams. Details to follow after the meeting.
Qatar 2022 will be the last tournament with the current 32 team format and the structure of the new competition will be defined in the months ahead.
The decision marks a major coup for the body's president Gianni Infantino who has made enlarging football's showcase event the centrepiece of his young administration. The controversial proposal has faced criticism from some of the sport's most powerful voices, including warnings that it would dilute the quality of play and overburden already exhausted players.
But Infantino had in recent weeks voiced confidence that his flagship project would be approved.While noting that a bigger tournament would bring in more money, the FIFA chief has also argued that more World Cup berths would help drive football's global growth.
Africa and Asia could be the big winners in a larger format with a rise in their number of places, currently at 5 and 4.5 respectively.
But in order to smooth over scepticism about World Cup reform within UEFA, it is likely that Europe will also see its allotments rise above the current 13 places.
From 13 to 48 in a century
The first World Cup competition was staged in Uruguay in 1930 with 13 participating nations. That increased to 16 four years later when France hosted the competition. The 16 team format remained through to 1978. Spain '82 saw the competition expand to 24 nations and France 1998 saw the expansion to the current format of 32 teams which will also be employed in the forthcoming competition in Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022.