Infantino: 40 or 48 teams very possible for 2026 World Cup

Claudio Villa/Getty Images
1 Comment

The FIFA World Cup field could be expanding drastically if things go according to plan for president Gianni Infantino.

[ MORE: England set to face Germany in first clash of 2017 ]

Since taking charge of soccer’s governing body in February, Infantino has remained adamant that expansion to the World Cup would be good for all involved. He hasn’t changed his stance since.

While the 2018 and 2022 editions in Russia and Qatar, respectively, will remain 32-team fields, Infantino and FIFA could have a decision to expand the 2026 tournament as soon as January.

“The feeling amongst the council is rather positive towards expansion,” said Infantino at a FIFA Council session in Zurich.

The latest proposal will be heard on Jan. 9, when the FIFA council will have four options to take into consideration.

  • Remain at 32 teams (as currently constructed)
  • Expand to 40 teams (Eight groups of five teams)
  • Expand to 40 teams (10 groups of four teams)
  • Expand to 48 teams (16 seeded teams meet 32 winners of playoff round)

Many critics have surmised that expansion to the World Cup field would dilute the tournament with teams not necessarily worthy of competing on the game’s biggest stage.

Infantino has a different feel on the matter, though.

“When a team qualifies for the tournament the whole country is in football euphoria,” Infantino said. “More youngsters want to play the game, companies want to get involved in sponsorship and the benefits to football as a whole are immense.

“In a 48-team format, the quality would be higher because the 32 teams would have a play-off. The quality would improve and not decrease in any way.”