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FIFA will expand World Cup to 48 countries from 2026

Bengaluru, Jan 10: FIFA council has agreed to president Gianni Infantino's suggestion of expanding the World Cup to 48 teams by 2026.

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Football's apex body's council on Tuesday, January 10, revealed that the structure of the tournament will be changed to 16 groups with 3 teams in each one.

FIFA World Cup trophy

When Infantino took over the reigns from outgoing president Sepp Blatter last year, he had pledged to expand the tournament to generate more revenues and thereby helping the developing football nations with the said money.

As estimated, FIFA will generate £4.5b in income after the tournament is extended. A total of 80 matches will be played, 16 more than the previous count of 64 which means they will earn $1bn (£823m) of extra income from broadcasting and sponsorship deals as well as ticket sales.

The upcoming FIFA World Cups 2018 and 2022 will be hosted by Russia and Qatar respectively. 2026's hosts are yet to be finalised.

But going by the trend the tournament, in 2026 is likely to be hosted in North America. Officials of USA, Canada and Mexico have had initial talks with FIFA regarding co-hosting the tournament.

FIFA's 6 continental partners will decide soon on the number of extra places they will get. UEFA, though have already confirmed that they want 16-nation slot.

The council officially weighed five proposals during Tuesday, January 10's, meeting at FIFA's snow-covered Zurich headquarters, including maintaining the status quo of 32-teams.

The landmark decision to expand the tournament is the latest overhaul of the World Cup, which has seen its global popularity and financial might surge since the inaugural edition in 1930, which had 13 countries.

The World Cup expanded to 24 teams in 1982 in Spain before moving to its current 32-team version at France 1998.

Earlier World Cup enlargement plans foresaw a longer tournament, which raised alarm that international football's already stretched calendar would be further tested.

Two teams from each group will advance to a 32-nation knock-out round. Some have pointed to Euro 2016, which expanded to 24 nations, as evidence that competition can remain fierce with more countries involved, noting the stunning achievements of football minnows like Iceland and Wales.

FIFA media officially tweeted to confirm the news:

OneIndia News (With inputs from AFP)

Story first published: Tuesday, January 10, 2017, 15:53 [IST]
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