March 29, 2017

FIFA approves 48-team World Cup •Germany kick, Maradona, Mourinho endorse

The FIFA Council have unanimously approved a 48-team World Cup from 2026 at a vote in Zurich.

The plans overseen by president Gianni Infantino mean the tournament will now have 16 groups of three teams.

Infantino has also suggested FIFA could also introduce penalty shoot-outs after group matches that end in a draw in order to stop teams playing for a result that favours them both.

The top two sides in each of the 16 groups will advance into a last-32 knock-out stage. There will be a total of 80 games in the tournament. Currently, in the 32-team format, 64 matches are played overall.

There were also options for the 37-member council to vote for a 40-team tournament, with 10 groups of four or eight groups of five, but the only other 48-team proposal saw a 32-team one-game knockout round with the winners joining 16 already-qualified teams.

European places at the competition will rise from 13 to 16. Africa are set for nine spots rather than five and Asia will also benefit, receiving four extra entries for the competition.

The other major decision regarding 2026 – who will host the event – is not scheduled for consideration until 2020 with a bid featuring the United States, either on its own or in conjunction with one or both of Canada and Mexico, an early favourite.

Extra teams also means increased revenue for FIFA. Their research suggests that an expanded tournament would rake in an additional £521million profit on the current format.

They have calculated that tournament revenue would increase to £5.29billion with 48 teams, working on the projected revenue of next year’s 32-team World Cup in Russia.

Extra teams also means increased revenue for FIFA. Their research suggests that an expanded tournament would rake in an additional £521million profit on the current format.

They have calculated that tournament revenue would increase to £5.29billion with 48 teams, working on the projected revenue of next year’s 32-team World Cup in Russia.

REACTIONS…

Diego Maradona, World Cup winner and Argentine legend: “I’m delighted by Gianni’s initiative because it gives chances to teams that otherwise would start the qualifiers knowing they had no chance of getting to the World Cup.

“It gives each country the dream and it renews the passion for football, it appears to me to be a fantastic idea.”

Reinhard Grindel, Germany’s football president: “We’re fundamentally convinced that the tried and tested model of 32 participating nations should be held. The world championships were always tournaments that inspired, why should that change?” he said.

Jose Mourinho, Manchester United Manager: “I’m totally in favour. As a club manager, if the expansion meant more games, less holidays and less pre-season for players, I would say no. It’s important for critics to analyse and understand that expansion doesn’t mean more matches. Players are protected and clubs are protected in this way. Teams with less potential and experience will probably play two matches and go home.

“But they would do so having improved and gained experience on the pitch, which would be added to the economic rewards of appearing at the finals – including further investment in their footballing infrastructure.”

New Fifa Now, a campaign group: “The expansion is  a money grab and power grab. It will dilute the competitiveness of the tournament and, therefore, the enjoyment of fans. It will not help development of the game or provide improved competitive opportunities for lower-ranked nations. Instead, it will make a mockery of the qualification process for most confederations.”