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FIFA to Expand World Cup to 48 Teams in 2026

January 10, 2017 9:43 AM
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FIFA to Expand World Cup to 48 Teams in 2026

The World Cup has used a 32-team format since the 1998 tournament in France and will keep that format for the coming competitions in Russia in 2018 and in Qatar in 2022. But beginning in 2026 — in a tournament for which the bidding to host has not yet begun — 48 teams will be placed into 16 three-team groups for the first stage, with the top two teams from each group advancing to a 32-team knockout round.

The charged question of how to allocate the 48 slots among the sport’s six continental confederations has yet to be determined, but it is certain to be the subject of fraught discussion, intense negotiation and high-stakes political calculus.

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January 10, 2017 9:45 AM

ZURICH — The World Cup will grow to 48 teams within a decade under by FIFA’s governing council, an enormous expansion of soccer’s showpiece tournament that was hailed by supporters as a victory for inclusion but that was derided by critics as the latest money grab by an organization still emerging from a series of financial scandals.

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January 10, 2017 9:44 AM

The move, which will take effect in 2026, was the largest expansion, in percentage terms, for the World Cup since it went to 24 teams from 16 in 1982, and the first since it moved to the current 32-nation format in 1998.

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January 10, 2017 9:44 AM

The larger field, which will be put in effect for the 2026 event, was ratified on Tuesday in a vote by the governing council of FIFA, the sport’s governing body. The move was the largest expansion, in percentage terms, for the World Cup since it went to 24 teams from 16 in 1982, and the first since it moved to the current 32 nations in 1998.

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January 10, 2017 9:43 AM

Anticipating questions about players’ workloads, Infantino repeatedly emphasized that, despite an increase in total games to 80 from 64, the tournament’s total length (32 days), the number of games played by the eventual winner (seven) and the number of stadiums (12) were the same for both the current and the expanded formats.

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January 10, 2017 9:43 AM

“We are in the 21st century, and we have to shape the football World Cup of the 21st century,” Infantino said after the council’s meeting. “Football is more than just Europe and South America. Football is global.”