Gianni Infantino first major proposal as FIFA’s president to the Executive Council is the increase of qualifying nations to the World Cup from the current 32 teams to 48. This was a major point of campaign for the Italian during the run for the top post at the world’s football governing body.
In an overwhelming manner, a vote for his proposal was attained and commencing from the World Cup in 2026; there will be 48 teams represented at tournament. There will be 16 groups of 3 teams each while the top two teams proceed to the knock round of 32 teams.
The new 48-team competition format has been drawn up in such a way that there is no reduction in the overall number of rest days and a guaranteed maximum of seven matches for the teams reaching the final, while the current 32-day tournament duration is kept in order not to elongate the days for which clubs will have to do away with their players.
The decision was taken following a thorough analysis, based on a report that included four different format options. The study took into account such factors as sporting balance, competition quality, impact on football development, infrastructure, projections on financial position and the consequences for event delivery.
FIFA Council is set to continue discussions in fine-tuning this proposals regarding arriving on conclusions on slots per federations and how to ensure that the winner of the tournament plays only seven matches as it is currently.
While expressing his feelings regarding his proposal, Infantino said “there is nothing bigger in terms of boosting football in a country than participating in a World Cup” and that “for a country that is not always participating, to qualify for a World Cup in November or not makes a big, big difference. If you do qualify for the World Cup, from November to June, the whole country lives and breathes football. Everyone gets interested.”
We at 9jafans believe that this is a good initiative that will broaden the accessibility of more countries to the premier competition. This will in turn create greater impact for the sport.