FIFA president Gianni Infantino is set to get his way on expanding the World Cup to forty eight teams in 2026, a move which will boost his chances of re-election in 2019.
A vote to expand world football’s premier event by sixteen teams is second on the agenda at today’s meeting of the FIFA Council in Zurich.
Increasing the number of teams at the World Cup was one of Infantino’s manifesto pledges last year, although his original idea was to follow predecessor Sepp Blatter’s preference for forty teams.
This increases the number of games from 64 to 80 but the tournament stays at 32 days, with the semi-finalists playing seven games, including the third-place play-off, which is the same number as now.
The council meeting, which starts at FIFA’s headquarters today, will actually have all four of the proposed expansion ideas on the table, as well as leaving the tournament at 32 teams, but nobody in Zurich is expecting anything other than strong support for the 16-groups-of-three plan.
Infantino has repeatedly said his main motivation for doing this is to give more nations a chance of experiencing the joy of a World Cup, which will bolster international football in developed markets and help its growth in new ones.