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FIFA to consider World Cup expansion to 48 teams, says president

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has unveiled a controversial proposal to expand the 2026 World Cup to 48 teams. The FIFA Council will rule on the proposal in the new year.

The World Cup could be expanded to 48 teams with 16 of them dropping out after one game, under proposals revealed by new FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

A proposal for expansion to 40 teams was included in Infantino's election manifesto ahead of his election as head of world football's governing body, but the Italian has taken the idea further by proposing an expansion to 48 teams.

On Monday, Infantino outlined the idea that would see 16 teams go home after playing just one game in an opening playoff round. The 16 playoff winners would join 16 seeded teams to begin a 32-team group stage that follows the current World Cup format.

Infantino hopes the proposals can become reality in time for the 2026 World Cup with the FIFA Council, the rebranded version of the disgraced FIFA committee that ultimately brought down former president Sepp Blatter, to rule on the possible expansion in the new year.

"These are ideas to find the best solution," said Infantino, who was speaking during an event at Bogota's Sergio Aboleda university.

"We will debate them this month and we will decide everything by 2017,” said Infantino. "They are ideas which we put forward to see which one is the best.”

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Current world champions won the 32-team tournament in 2014, and their coach Joachim Löw is against the proposed expansion.

Germany coach Joachim Löw said last weekend that he opposed plans to expand the tournament. "I don't think its a good idea to dilute the sporting value,” he told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper in an interview on Sunday. Löw added however that he had "an absolute understanding for the smaller nations who, thanks to this, could take their place on the big stage”.

The World Cup was last expanded from 24 to 32 teams in 1994, but further expansion risks making the tournament unbalanced and would see 16 nations travel to the tournament to play only one game. Critics have also argued that the proposed changes would place an even greater burden on the host nation who would have to provide increased accomodation, security and other infrastructure. 

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