Fifa Boss, Infantino, Proposes 48-Team World Cup
Fifa president Gianni Infantino, unrelenting in his bid to see a bigger World Cup, suggested on Monday that he would like to expand the number of teams at the Mundial to 48 beginning at the 2026 event.
Infantino, who replaced former Fifa boss Sepp Blatter in February in a landmark poll, hedged his campaign on an expanded World Cup that includes 40 teams in the group stages.
And now the former Uefa General Secretary has tweaked it slightly, with the new format set to feature a one-match playoff at the start of tournament.
Also, the 16 countries that finish highest in the qualifying rounds for the 2026 World Cup would automatically make the group stage of the global football showcase where they’ll be joined by successful sides in the play-in.
“The next 32 (teams) would play a match, a playoff, three days before the World Cup to decide the other 16,” he said during a visit to a university in Bogota, Colombia, where he was in town for the final of the Futsal World Cup.
“That way we would have 16 more teams qualifying for a final stage of the World Cup, in which they would be playing for a spot in the group stage, in a match that amounts to an absolutely incredible final in terms of passion,” he said.
“It’s an idea that we’re going to debate.”
The World Cup was expanded from 24 teams to 32 in 1994 but most proposals for further expansion involve convoluted mathematical contortions or unbalanced group stages.
While Infantino’s solution avoids that, it still leaves 16 teams with the burden of flying to the host country to play one match before going home again.
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