The World Cup will be expanded to 48 teams from its current 32, beginning with the 2026 edition of world football’s showpiece tournament, FIFA unanimously decided on Tuesday.
FIFA’s decision-making body, the FIFA Council, also have decided the new format would see 16 groups of three teams in the group stage.
“The FIFA Council unanimously decided on a 48-team World Cup as of 2026: 16 groups of 3 teams. Details to follow after the meeting,” FIFA said on its Twitter feed.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who replaced Sepp Blatter back in February, had made this FIFA World Cup expansion one of his earliest promises during his successful electoral campaign.
Infantino, however, first time suggested a 40-team tournament, but then eight more were included to that total in October.
Upon this historical decision, FIFA have also ruled out any concerns that the expansion would eventually lower the overall standard of the competition, and rather make it too long and unwieldy.
Critics, particularly the powerful European clubs as well as some leading coaches, have claimed that FIFA is nothing but tampering with a winning formula.
The last World Cup in Brazil was widely regarded as one of the best in the tournament’s 87-year-old history, giving shock results, last minute drama and outstanding individual displays.
With 80 matches rather than 64, FIFA forecasts $1 billion extra income from broadcasting and sponsor deals, plus ticket sales, compared to $5.5bn forecast for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
FIFA’s six continents will find out by May how many extra places they will get.
UEFA have demanded 16 European teams in the tournament, which will likely be held in North America.