The World Cup will expand to 48 teams from its current 32, starting with the 2026 edition of soccer’s showpiece tournament, the game’s governing body FIFA decided on Tuesday.
FIFA’s decision making body, the FIFA Council, also decided that the format would consist of 16 groups of three teams in the group stage.
“The FIFA Council unanimously decided on a 48-team World Cup as of 2026: 16 groups of 3 teams. Details to follow after the meeting,” FIFA said on its Twitter feed.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who replaced the disgraced Sepp Blatter in February, had made World Cup expansion one of his promises during his successful electoral campaign.
Infantino had initially suggested a 40-team tournament but then added another eight to that total in October.
In making the decision, FIFA brushed aside concerns that the expansion would lower the overall standard of the tournament, and make it too long and unwieldy.
Critics, including the powerful European clubs as well as some leading coaches, have said that FIFA is tampering with a winning formula.
The last World Cup in Brazil was widely regarded as one of the best in the competition’s 87-year-old history, featuring shock results, last minute drama and outstanding individual performances.