Image: si.com

Gianni Infantino’s plan for a world cup expansion from 32 to 48 teams has been endorsed by the council of the world football governing body in Zurich, Switzerland on Tuesday.

The proposal was backed unanimously by the 37-member council and will come into effect in time for the 2026 World Cup. The 2018 and 2022 World Cups in Russia and Qatar would remain with 32 teams.

With the new arrangement, participating countries will be divided into 16 groups of three at the finals, likely creating a tournament with 80 matches up from the current 64.

It is the first time the World Cup format has changed since 1998.

In a move to appease powerful European clubs who objected the reform owing to crowded international schedule, but FIFA President, Gianni Infantino declared that the tournament will still be completed within 32 days and the eventual winners will still play only seven games.

Infantino has come under criticism over the plan which was a major part of his campaign before he emerged FIFA President.

Apart from European clubs who criticized the move due to heavy congestion of matches, a campaign group, New Fifa Now once described the expansion as “a money grab and power grab”.

According to a Fifa research, revenue is predicted to increase to £5.29bn for a 48-team tournament, giving a potential profit rise of £521m.

The World Cup was expanded after the first edition in 1930 from 13 teams to 16 teams. It was expanded to 24 teams in the FIFA World Cup held in Spain in 1982 while the present format of 32 teams have been in place since France 1998.

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Author: Timilehin Boyinde

Oluwatimilehin Boyinde is a research writer and a social media strategist. A public affairs analyst, he writes about history, politics, sports, life matters and technology. He is passionate about happenings in Local and international political arenas. He is an avid Manchester United fan and an unapologetic Nigerian.