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FIFA President Infantino: '48-team World Cup to be hosted by several countries'

The former UEFA General Secretary has expressed continued support for an expansion to the World Cup. It follows UEFA's decision to expand the European Championship to 24 teams this summer in France.

Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, has underlined his support for an expanded FIFA World Cup, which will be held in 'multiple countries'.

The 46-year-old former General Secretary of UEFA became the third FIFA president in four decades after he succeeded Sepp Blatter in February. Infantino has overseen reforms with the aim of cleaning up FIFA's image amid continued accusations of bribery and wrongdoing.

But one of Infantino's promises was to expand the FIFA World Cup, copying the idea of the European Championship, which increased from 16 to 24 teams in 2016. The tournament will also be held in 13 European cities in 2020, the first time the tournament has been held in more than two nations.

Infantino's proposal would be the fifth expansion of the World Cup, which has grown from 13 teams in 1930 to the last enlargement to 32 for France 1998.

An increase to 48 would place an increasing demand on host nations, which has encouraged Infantino to believe that "a fundamental point" for an expanded finals would be to have it co-hosted "by several countries."

Schweiz Neuer FIFA Präsident Gianni Infantino (Getty Images/R. Heathcote)

Infantino was elected as FIFA president in February 2016

New format: More Open

In a reformed World Cup, the 16 strongest teams in the qualification phase progress directly for the group phase of the World Cup. They would be joined by a further 32 teams who would then contest a playoff round.

"We can consider a World Cup of 48 teams which would in fact be a 32-team format because we have seen that the ideal format is 32 teams," explained the FIFA chief.

"The idea would be that the best 16 teams in qualifying would qualify directly for the group phase. This gives more chances for more teams. Furthermore, there would be no impact on the football calendar because these play-off matches would be played instead of friendlies before the World Cup.

"From the point of view of the promotion of football, there would be '16 finals' before the real start of the group phase, real matches taking place to determine the 16 teams."

Infantino's proposed expansion will be discussed on October 13 and 14 when the next FIFA Council meets in Zürich.

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