FIFA Plans to Expand World Cup Teams From 32 to 48
The Fifa council has rubber-stamped plans to expand the World Cup to 48 teams from 2026, with the revamp proposed by the governing body’s president, Gianni Infantino, receiving unanimous backing.
Delegates in Zurich were asked to vote on four suggestions to change the existing format or stick with the current setup of 32 teams.
This is the first time since the 1998 World Cup that changes have been made to the makeup of the tournament, with the 2026 competition set to feature 16 groups of three.
Infantino’s preferred option for change was for a 2026 competition featuring the 16 groups followed by a 32-team knockout round, increasing the number of games from 64 to 80 but remaining inside a 32-day schedule. There were also options to have a 40-team tournament, with 10 groups of four or eight groups of five, but the only other 48-team makeup would mean a 32-team one-game knockout round, with the winners joining 16 already qualified teams. Infantino has also suggested that penalty shootouts be brought in to settle the results of all drawn games, thereby minimising the risk of teams colluding in their final group games to eliminate others from the tournament.