The news was announced via Twitter, with FIFA’s media account writing: “The FIFA Council unanimously decided on a 48-team #WorldCup as of 2026: 16 groups of 3 teams. Details to follow after the meeting.”
The council, sitting in Zurich, had been asked to vote on four proposals laid out by FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino. According to The Guardian, Infantino’s preferred option for change was for “a 2026 competition featuring the 16 groups, followed by a 32-team knock-out, increasing the number of games from 64 to 80 but remaining inside a 32-day schedule.”
Infantino says his main motivation for expanding the tournament is to give more nations a chance of experiencing the “joy” of a World Cup. The move is expected to benefit African and Asian nations such as China, which has plans to become a “soccer superpower” by mid-century.
“We have to be more inclusive,” Infantino told a sports conference in Dubai last December. “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.”
The make-up of the World Cup tournament has remained the same since 1998 and news of the shakeup has received mix responses on social media. “Now we’ll have more 6-0 [and] 7-0 matches in the first round. What a joke,” wrote one Twitter user.
“RIP World Cup football. Might be wise to remember this saying: ‘If it’s not broken, don’t try to fix it’. #fifa = joke,” remarked another.