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FIFA set to decide in January over World Cup expansion

Gianni Infantino is keen to increase the number of teams in the World Cup to 48. But the FIFA president faces opposition from those who believe the quality of football will be diluted.

FIFA could decide early next year whether to expand the 2026 World Cup from its 32-team format to 40 or 48 teams.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino, speaking after the first day of a FIFA Council meeting in Zurich, is pushing for the move to be adopted the next time the body meets. 

"The general feeling is rather positive," the Swiss said. "The level of quality of football is increasing all over the world."

Others disagree with that assertion but the general success of an expanded Euro 2016, with smaller nations such as Wales and Iceland excelling, has given Infantino renewed hope. 

There are 211 FIFA member associations and those that have rarely or have never made a World Cup are obviously likely to vote yes to the proposals. The problem for Infantino is maths.

He initially aired the idea of a 40-team World Cup but boiling that down to a round of 16 is not easy.  

Infantino has since suggested a 48-team tournament with an opening playoff round of 16 matches. The 16 winners would advance to join 16 seeded teams in a 32-team group stage like now.

"This is still very much a work in progress," he said on Thursday.

The 2026 World Cup, which is expected to be hosted in North America, could also be run centrally by FIFA instead of by a local organizing committee.

Infantino outlined plans on Thursday for FIFA to take "full control of all money flows."

mm/pfd (AP, Reuters)

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