The FIFA Council on Tuesday unanimously decided in favor of expanding the FIFA World Cup Final to a 48-team competition, starting from the 2026 tournament.
The world football's supervisory and strategic body held its third meeting in Zurich on January 9 and 10, and decided on a new tournament format with 48 national teams split into 16 groups of three. The top two teams from each group will advance to a 32-team knockout stage.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino addresses a news conference after a FIFA Council meeting in Zurich, Switzerland, January 10, 2017. /CFP Photo
The 48-team competition format has been drawn up in such a way that there is no reduction in the overall number of rest days, and a guaranteed maximum of seven matches for the teams that reach the final, while the current 32-day tournament duration is kept, so as not to increase the length of time for which domestic clubs have to release their players.
This file photo taken on February 28, 2016 shows the World Cup trophy at the FIFA World Football Museum during its inauguration. /CFP PHoto
The decision was taken following a thorough analysis, based on a report that included four different format options. The study took into account such factors as sporting balance, competition quality, impact on football development, infrastructure and so on.
The FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, January 10, 2017. /CFP Photo
Over the course of its next meetings, the FIFA Council is set to discuss further details regarding the expanded competition, including the number of tournament places allotted to each confederation.
FIFA noted that for countries looking to bid for the right to host the 2026 edition, a host is currently scheduled to be selected in May 2020.
(With inputs from Xinhua News Agency)