48 teams to participate at 2026 World Cup

FIFA’s council members have unanimously approved Gianni Infantino’s plan for a 48-team World Cup.

The 37-member council chose Infantino’s plan above four other options, one of which was to leave the tournament in its current 32-team format.

The new structure, featuring 16 groups of three followed by a 32-team knockout, is scheduled to be implemented in time for the 2026 finals.

Infantino put World Cup expansion at the top of his agenda when he was installed as president Sepp Blatter’s replacement last year, and a number of proposals were put forward.

Two involved 48-team finals, another two suggested expansion to 40 teams and the final option was to stick with 32 teams.

Critics of Infantino’s preferred plan, which will see the number of matches rise from 64 to 80, included several high-profile clubs and the German Football Federation, which does not currently have a representative on the FIFA council.

But supporters including Jose Mourinho have pointed out the maximum number of games any team can play will remain the same at seven, while Infantino insists the format can fit into the current 32-day timeframe.

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