Fifa will vote on Tuesday on plans to expand the World Cup to 48 teams from 2026, in line with the vision of president Gianni Infantino.
The Swiss, who claims to have “overwhelming” support for the expansion plan, favours 16 groups of three countries, with the top two progressing to the knockout rounds.
If successful, it would lead to the first World Cup expansion since 1998.
There are five options world football’s governing body will consider.
The expansion options
Infantino, 46, succeeded fellow Swiss Sepp Blatter as Fifa president in February 2016, having campaigned on a promise of expansion.
The former general secretary of Uefa [European football’s governing body] initially suggested a 40-team tournament – an idea put forward by then-Uefa president Michel Platini in 2013 – before shifting focus to a 48-nation finals.
The five options the 37-member Fifa council will choose from are:
- A 48-team World Cup consisting of 16 groups of three, with the top two sides qualifying for a last-32 knockout stage (80 games in total);
- Another 48-team version consisting of a 32-team, one-game knockout round, with the winners joining 16 already-qualified teams (80 games – 16 in preliminary and 64 in the main tournament);
- Expanding it to 40 teams, with 10 groups of four and only six group runners-up advancing (76 games);
- A 40-team tournament with eight groups of five (88 games);
- Keeping the World Cup at its present size of 32 teams (64 games).
In Infantino’s favoured option, the number of games rises from 64 to 80, but the finals can still be played within the existing tournament duration of 32 days, while a nation will play no more than seven matches, as in the present format.
One potential flaw is that penalty shootouts may have to be introduced to settle drawn group matches to prevent two sides playing out a result in the last round of games that ensures both countries progress.
Source – BBC