FIFA head Infantino urges expanding World Cup to 48 teams
Bogota, Oct 4 (IANS) FIFA President Gianni Infantino said here that soccer's governing body is mulling a change to the World Cup format to expand the number of teams from 32 to 48, beginning with the 2026 competition.
"FIFA's idea is to develop football in the whole world, and the World Cup is the biggest event there is. It's more than a competition, it's a social event," he said in a speech at Colombia's Sergio Arboleda University.
The proposal calls for 16 teams to qualify directly for the group stage, while the other 16 slots would be filled through a single elimination round among 32 teams, to take place in the World Cup host nation, reports Efe.
"It means we continue with a normal World Cup for 32 teams, but 48 teams go to the party," Infantino said.
Expanding the World Cup was a theme of Infantino's campaign for the FIFA presidency, though his initial suggestion was for a 40-team competition.
"These are ideas to find the best solution, we will debate them this month and we will decide everything by 2017," the Swiss native said. "They are ideas which we put forward to see which one is the best."
On hand for Infantino's speech was retired Colombian international Carlos "Pibe" Valderrama, who praised the notion of an expanded World Cup.
"Growing (the number) of teams is positive. I think it's a really good idea," Valderrama said.