Football's world governing body, Fifa, has unanimously approved the expansion of World Cup from 32 teams to 48 teams. The new format, with 16 teams in three groups, will be part of the global tournament as of 2026.
The Fifa Council voted unanimously for the expansion of the quadrennial tournament at a meeting in Zurich on Thursday, a Tweet on Fifa's official handle revealed. This is also the first time since 1998, World Cup format has been modified as the global showpiece event had 24 teams until then.
Despite the increase in the number of teams, the world cup will be played only over 32 days and will feature 80 matches, 16 more than the current count. The expanded tournament is expected to bring in more money from sponsorship and broadcast deals along with ticket sales.
Fifa, in its Tweet, also revealed that the details of the new format will be revealed after the end of the meeting. However, it was reported that the possible 48-team format will have a preliminary round of 16 draw, from which the winners will join another 16 teams for a 32-team group stage.
It was newly-appointed president Gianni Infantino's plan to have a 48-team World Cup in order to make the tournament more inclusive. Even former president Sepp Blatter had discussed the possibility of a 40-team tournament before the end of his stint in 2015.
However, European clubs had reportedly voiced against such a move arguing that the expansion will add to the already-packed football schedule across the globe. Notably, the European Club Association (ECA) had sent a letter to Infantino asking the president not to increase the number of teams in December last year.