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Bigger and better: Why 2026 FIFA World Cup will be different

The new FIFA World Cup format will be made up of 16 groups of three teams, FIFA said in a tweet sent by its media department

football Updated: Jan 10, 2017 16:16 IST
FIFA,FIFA World Cup,FIFA World Cup expansion
FIFA’s council has unanimously backed plans by President Gianni Infantino to expand the World Cup to 48 teams from 32 starting in 2026(Reuters)

The World Cup will expand to 48 teams from its current 32, starting with the 2026 edition of soccer’s showpiece tournament, the game’s governing body FIFA decided on Tuesday. FIFA’s decision making body, the FIFA Council, also decided that the format would consist of 16 groups of three teams in the group stage. (Ronaldo, Fifa Player of the Year -- His best goals in 2016)

“The FIFA Council unanimously decided on a 48-team World Cup as of 2026: 16 groups of 3 teams. Details to follow after the meeting,” FIFA said on its Twitter feed.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who replaced the disgraced Sepp Blatter in February, had made FIFA World Cup expansion one of his promises during his successful electoral campaign.

Infantino had initially suggested a 40-team tournament but then added another eight to that total in October.

In making the decision, FIFA brushed aside concerns that the expansion would lower the overall standard of the tournament, and make it too long and unwieldy.

Critics, including the powerful European clubs as well as some leading coaches, have said that FIFA is tampering with a winning formula.

The last World Cup in Brazil was widely regarded as one of the best in the competition’s 87-year-old history, featuring shock results, last minute drama and outstanding individual performances.

Maradona welcomes FIFA move

“This will give more possibilities to countries that have never reached that level of competition. “The quality will not fall,” Diego Maradona said

Former French international David Trezeguet said more World Cup berths would give “possibilities to countries and especially players who have never experienced this beautiful competition.”

First Published: Jan 10, 2017 15:39 IST