FIFA′s Infantino seeks 48-team, 16-group World Cup | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 07.12.2016
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FIFA's Infantino seeks 48-team, 16-group World Cup

Gianni Infantino has written to FIFA Council members setting out four proposed reform formats for the World Cup. All bar one foresee a degree of expansion - the most radical suggests 48 competitors, not 32.

FIFA's president is hoping for a revamped World Cup starting with the 2026 competition, and on Wednesday Gianni Infantino sent four potential models to senior executives at FIFA. The note precedes next month's FIFA Council meeting, when members will have the chance to debate and potentially decide on a format.

Of the four potential models mooted, a FIFA source told news agency AFP that the most radical version - a 48-team competition split into 16 three-team groups - was "preferred by President Infantino."

The four formats

The first option is to change nothing: hold a 32-team World Cup split into eight groups of four.

Next, there's the possibility of expanding the competition to 40 teams - either with eight groups of five teams, or 10 groups of four.

Also suggested is a 48-team World Cup that begins with a playoff round for the 16 "weakest" qualifiers. Once those initial knockout games are over, a 32-team group stage could begin as normal.

Finally there follows Infantino's  supposedly preferred option: 48 teams split into 16 groups of three - with two qualifiers from each group making up a first knockout round of 32 teams.

An obvious carrot for FIFA members

Despite sometimes angry initial reactions to the news from the public and press online, FIFA member states are likely to see the positive side of World Cup expansion. More teams equates to more countries reaching international football's most lucrative and high-profile competition, meaning FIFA delegates could be the easiest people of all to convince.

Infografik EURO 2016 GRUPPENPHASE ENG

Under Infantino, UEFA expanded Euro 2016 to 24 teams - with only muted success

Formerly the UEFA president, Infantino has replaced Sepp Blatter atop world football's governing body and is now charged with cleaning up the act - or at least the image - of the organization. Speaking about possible World Cup reforms in the past, he has voiced support for a competition "shared" across many countries in future, similar to UEFA's continent-wide plans for Euro 2020.

Infantino said that sharing the burden of providing facilities would prevent massive World Cup stadiums standing empty after the competition.

"We don't want white elephants," he said. "We want facilities that will last."

Before long, each World Cup might require even more of those facilities, if more and more teams are coming to town.

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