FIFA members have approved the World Cup expansion, which will add 16 more teams to the tournament. FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s idea was approved on Tuesday and will begin for the 2026 tournament.
There are still two World Cups before the changes happen but this is the biggest expansion since 1994. In that year, the tournament was expanded from 24 teams to 32.
The World Cup expansion will allow 16 more teams to qualify for the sporting event, which takes place every four years. The FIFA members had five options to vote for on Tuesday, including keeping the tournament with 32 teams.
The option chosen for the World Cup expansion adds 16 more teams to the tournament. There will be 16 groups of three during the group stage and 32 of them will qualify to the next round. The expansion adds 16 more games to the schedule but the tournament will be completed in around the same days as previous editions. The top two teams from each group qualify for the next round. This is the same as the previous format but adds more groups.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino talked about the World Cup expansion in October, saying that FIFA’s idea is to develop football in the whole world. The expansion, approved earlier today, will add 16 more teams. FIFA has not revealed how many places each continent will receive but one proposal being looked at would give Europe three more teams.
The expanded format will give teams that have been very close to qualifying for previous World Cups a bigger chance to qualify. The first World Cup featured 13 teams and in nine years, the tournament will have 48 teams. The 32 team format will remain for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup.
Teams that have been very close to qualifying in the past will benefit from the new format. But not everyone is happy with the decision made earlier today. A few hours ago, a number of sites reported that La Liga was planning to take legal action against the decision. The European Club Association also said that the decision to expand the tournament was due to political reasons rather than sporting ones.
The 2026 World Cup is still nine years away and while we now know that the tournament will have 48 teams, a host for the event has not been chosen. Infantino reportedly wants to merge CONMEBOL and CONCACAF qualifying, so more changes could come for the qualifiers and World Cup in the next few months.