FIFA decides unanimously to expand World Cup to 48 teams from 2026

FIFA has unanimously decided the World Cup will be expanded to feature 48 countries from 2026. The football body’s ruling council said on Tuesday the tournament would see 16 groups of three nations. The approval meets President Gianni Infantino’s election pledge to expand the World Cup and could help fund extra money for FIFA’s 211 members. It will mean 80 matches instead of 64 from the current tournament format, which FIFA has forecast will equate to $1bn (£823m) of extra income from broadcasting and sponsorship deals as well as ticket sales.

There is nothing bigger in terms of boosting football in a country than participating in a World Cup.

Fifa president Gianni Infantino, speaking in December

FIFA’s six continents will find out in May how many extra places they will get for the competition. UEFA has said it wants 16 European teams in the 2026 tournament, which will likely be held in North America. The CONCACAF region - which includes the Canada and Mexico - has not hosted the World Cup since 1994 when it was held in the US. Football bodies from the US, Canada and Mexico have held initial talks about co-hosting a bid for 2026.