48-Team World Cup: FIFA support rises

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FIFA President Gianni-Infantino
FIFA President Gianni-Infantino

Global football federations are “overwhelmingly in favour’’ of plans for a 48-team World Cup, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said on Wednesday.

The head of football’s governing body had outlined his vision for an expanded tournament comprising 16 groups of three teams earlier this month.

According to his plan, the top two teams in each group would progress to the knockout rounds.

A decision will be made in January but any change to the 32-team format is unlikely to come in before 2026.

FIFA’s Council will discuss the proposal at a meeting on Jan. 9, but the 46-year-old Infantino had made expansion part of his election manifesto earlier this year.

“We have to be more inclusive,’’ he said at a sports conference in Dubai, adding that a 48-team tournament was the most financially appealing.

“If we can have a format that does not add any additional matches but brings so much joy to those who don’t have the chance to participate, then we will have to think about that,” Infantino said.

“When discussed with the associations in the summits, they were overwhelmingly in favour. But more discussions will have to take place.’’

The number of competing teams at World Cups last changed in 1998, increasing from 24 to 32.

The European Club Association, which represents the region’s leading clubs, has rejected calls for the World Cup to be expanded.

Infantino also said experiments around video technology in refereeing at the recent Club World Cup had been “very positive’’.

He said he hoped the system would be used at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

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