FIFA has unanimously decided to increase the World Cup to a 48-nation tournament as of 2026.
The coming changes will see the competition feature an initial stage of 16 groups made up of three teams, each team is expected to play on 2 matches in the group stage instead of the previous three, while a knockout stage will comprise the remaining 32 sides.
The tournament is to be completed 32 days and will now include a total of 80 matches compared to its previous number of 64.
Despite the increase, the eventual winners of the tournament will still play seven matches – the same number as it was with 32 teams
European places at the competition will likely rise from 13 to 16. Africa and Asia could have as many as nine teams each. At the 2014 World Cup in Brazil they had five and four teams respectively. FIFA could decide by May how many entries each continent has.
The other major decision regarding 2026 – who will host the event – is not scheduled for consideration until 2020 with a bid featuring the United States, either on its own or in conjunction with one or both of Canada and Mexico, an early favourite.
Extra teams also means increased revenue for FIFA. Their research suggests that an expanded tournament would rake in an additional £521million profit on the current format.
They have calculated that tournament revenue would increase to £5.29billion with 48 teams, working on the projected revenue of next year’s 32-team World Cup in Russia.
WORLD CUP Q&A provided by Daily Mail
Q: How exactly will the group stages work?
Each team plays twice in their three-team group. The top two advance into the last 32, which will be a knock-out stage.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino has hinted that group matches ending in a draw could be decided by a penalty shoot-out, in order to stop sides playing for a result in a game that favours them both.
Q: What other impact will 48 teams have on the tournament?
More teams also means more games. 80 matches will take place at the 2026 World Cup, as opposed to the current total of 64. However, if a team finishes in the last four, they will have played seven matches, the same total as with the current format.
FIFA have also estimated that their profits would rise by around £520million with the expansion.
Q: Where will the 2026 World Cup be held?
It is not known where the tournament will be played yet, but with Asia and Europa barred from bidding as they host the next two tournaments, the United States are expected to make an offer. They could either be sole bidders, or come forward with a joint proposal alongside Mexico or Canada.
With 48 teams naming squads of 23, there will be 1,104 players heading to the 2026 event. That, and the increased number of fans that will travel to watch the competition which takes place once every four years, are all factors which will favour larger countries, such as the United States, hosting the tournament.
Q: Why did president Infantino want the World Cup expanded?
Infantino vowed to increase the number of teams competing in the showpiece event when he was campaigning to replace his disgraced predecessor, Sepp Blatter, at the helm of FIFA.
His proposal appealed to more of the 211 FIFA members, many of whom do not reach the tournament. Infantino initially spoke of increasing the number of competitors to 40, before raising it again to 48.
Confederations outside of Europe have felt disadvantaged with entries to the World Cup for many years.