FIFA World Cup expands to 48 Teams for 2026

Football’s world governing body is expanding the 2026 FIFA World Cup finals to 48 teams. Federations from Asia and Africa support FIFA’s decision.

FIFA World Cup expands to 48 Teams for 2026

“There is nothing bigger in terms of boosting football in a country than participating in a World Cup.”

Football’s world governing council is expanding the current FIFA World Cup roster from 32 to 48 teams.

Meeting in Zurich, the international body unanimously approved to grow the prestigious competition by another 16 teams for the 2026 FIFA World Cup finals.

The 2026 edition will see teams divided into 16 groups of three. The top two teams from each pool will advance to the knockout stages of the tournament.

The end result will see a total of 80 matches. This is an increase of 16 from the 64 games that will feature in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

The expansion was one of the key pledges made by new FIFA president Gianni Infantino. Gianni wants the sport to become more inclusive. Hoping to grow the sport globally, Infantino says:

“There is nothing bigger in terms of boosting football in a country than participating in a World Cup.”

The FIFA boss explains further that with 48 teams they can generate approximately 630 million US dollars in profit.

But by growing the tournament, it leads the question whether big is always better. Well, FIFA has brushed aside concerns that future expanded tournaments could suffer in quality.

FIFA believes this is a great opportunity for smaller nations to showcase their talent on a global scale.

Federations from Africa and Asia welcome the decision with open arms. For many nations, it will be like a dream if they qualify.

With this new format, India who is placed 135 in the FIFA World Rankings has a more realistic opportunity to reach the finals.

There is the argument that some teams will need millions of dollars if they wish to compete against the greats of football.

However, some media networks such as TRT have reported that an increase of 1 billion US dollars will come from the selling of broadcast rights.

The extra funding will help to improve the domestic game and infrastructure of many countries. These include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Kenya, Nepal and Pakistan.

Change is nothing new when it comes to football. The first ever football World Cup in 1930 had 13 teams and this has gradually increased. Hence it is only natural for the sport to grow over the years.

Besides those who back Infantino’s vision, there are others who believe the current system is popular and are critical of FIFA’s decision.

Describing it as “a money grab and power grab” expansion, the campaign group called New FIFA Now issued a statement saying:

“It will dilute the competitiveness of the tournament and, therefore, the enjoyment of fans.”

Now that FIFA has voted in favour of more teams, time will tell if this was the right decision or not.

Fans and critics will just have to respect the decision and look forward to a brighter future for world football.

Faisal has creative experience in the fusion of media and communication and research which increase awareness of global issues in post-conflict, emerging and democratic societies. His life motto is: "persevere, for success is near..."

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