FIFA to expand football World Cup from 32 teams to 48 for 2026: official

The FIFA Council will vote in Zurich on January 9-10 whether to maintain the current World Cup format of 32 teams, or extend it to 40 or 48
Fabrice Coffrini (AFP/File)
Controversial proposal has faced criticism from some of the sport's most powerful voices

FIFA approved by a unanimous vote a plan to expand the football World Cup from 36 teams to 48 for the 2026 tournament, the world football body announced Tuesday.

"The FIFA Council unanimously decided on a 48-team #WorldCup as of 2026: 16 groups of 3 teams," a tweet from FIFA's official account said.

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. 

This is developing story


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