Infantino appears happy with the outcomes of the FIFA Council meeting (Getty Images)

(WFI) FIFA Council members today agreed to analyse expansion of the 2026 World Cup to 40 or 48 teams.

Meeting in Zurich, FIFA’s top officials decided to back president Gianni Infantino’s idea to revamp the current 32-team competition format.

“Following discussions in a positive spirit, the 2026 FIFA World Cup may have an expanded 40- or 48-team competition format, pending further analysis of different options by the FIFA administration, with a final decision to be made on the format at the next council meeting in January,” a FIFA statement said.

Gianni Infantino made expansion to 40 teams part of his election manifesto. Under his new plan for the 2026 World Cup, he says 16 of the 48 teams would go home after one match of a preliminary knock-out round. This would leave 32 teams to compete in the group stage and vie for places in the knockout phase.

Critics say an increase in teams will dilute the quality of football at the World Cup.

2026 Bidding Principles

The bidding process for the 2026 World Cup is taking shape.

The FIFA Council on Friday approved the World Cup rotation system, meaning that the member associations from the confederations of the last two hosts – UEFA (Russia) AFC (Qatar) – are ineligible to bid for the 2026 World Cup, which is widely expected to be staged in a CONCACAF nation. The USA is the strongest candidate, with Mexico a possible contender.

In an exception to the rule, the confederation of the second-to-last World Cup host (Europe) could enter a bid “in the event that none of the received bids fulfil the strict technical and financial requirements”.

Russia and Qatar were both deemed risky bids in FIFA’s 2018 and 2022 World Cup evaluation reports but it had no bearing on the vote of 22 FIFA executives in the scandal-hit bidding contest.

But for the 2026 World Cup, FIFA said that its general secretariat, after “will have the power to exclude bidders who do not meet the minimum technical requirements to host the competition”.

FIFA also confirmed today that the principle of co-hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup “will be permitted, not limited to a specific number, but evaluated on a case-by-case basis”. This may open the door for the USA and Mexico to share hosting rights.

After yesterday unveiling his vision for the future of football dubbed ‘FIFA 2.0’, Infantino also updated council members on the scheduling of a series of global Executive Football Summits. These aim to provide a platform for FIFA’s 211 member federations and confederations to discuss matters of strategic importance with officials from the governing body.

Representatives from member associations will be invited to take part in summits at six different locations around the world. The first is in Paris next month.

Other FIFA News

* Bruno de Vita of Canada was appointed as second deputy chair of the investigatory chamber of FIFA’s ethics committee until the 2017 FIFA Congress subject to passing the eligibility check.
* The composition of FIFA’s nine new committees, replacing the existing 26 under FIFA’s restructure, will be presented to the council for approval at its January meeting following the completion of statutory eligibility checks.
* FIFA’s annual football awards will be held in Zurich on Jan. 9. FIFA’s Ballon d’Or for the best male and female players has been rebranded to FIFA’s Best.
* The 67th FIFA Congress will be held in Manama on May 11.

The next FIFA Council meeting is slated for Jan. 9-10. As part of its new set-up, the FIFA Council will meet three times a year – January, May and November.

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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