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FIFA’s ruling council have voted to expand the World Cup to 48 teams in 2026, in the format of 16 groups of three nations each.

“The FIFA Council unanimously decided on a 48-team #WorldCup as of 2026: 16 groups of 3 teams,” a tweet from FIFA’s official account said.

The number of tournament matches will rise to 80, from 64, but the eventual winners will still play only seven games.

The tournament will be completed within 32 days – a measure to appease powerful European clubs, who objected to reform because of a crowded international schedule.

The changes mark the first World Cup expansion since 1998.

The controversial proposal has faced criticism from some of the sport’s most powerful voices, including warnings that it would dilute the quality of play and overburden already exhausted players.

But Infantino had in recent weeks voiced confidence that his flagship project would be approved.

While noting that a bigger tournament would bring in more money, the FIFA chief has also argued that more World Cup berths would help drive football’s global growth.

Africa and Asia could be the big winners in a larger format with a rise in their number of places, currently at 5 and 4.5 respectively.

But in order to smooth over scepticism about World Cup reform within UEFA, it is likely that Europe will also see its allotments rise above the current 13 places.

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