FIFA president Gianni Infantino has proposed a 48-team World Cup that would see 16 teams eliminated after one knockout match.
The proposal would essentially add a play-in round three days before the current 32-team group stage. From that point, the tournament would progress as it has in the past.
Infantino revealed his plan during a visit to Bogata, Colombia, and said the proposal will be discussed at a FIFA council next week before a final decision in made in January.
“The idea is that 16 teams would qualify directly to the group stage and the other 32 would play in a preliminary phase, in the country where the World Cup is being played — they would play for the remaining 16 places,” Infantino said, according to local media. FIFA confirmed the president’s plan to Reuters.
“It means we continue with a normal World Cup for 32 teams, but 48 teams go to the party.”
During his campaign for the FIFA presidency, Infantino had pushed for a 40-team World Cup after the 2022 event in Qatar to allow more nations to take part in the festivities.
“FIFA’s idea is to develop football in the whole world, and the World Cup is the biggest event there is,” he said. “It’s more than a competition, it’s a social event.”
Infantino’s plans to expand the World Cup beyond the current 32-team structure have been met with opposition, including from German coach Joachim Low, who said on Sunday that increasing the teams would “dilute” the event’s value.
But former Colombia star Carlos Valderrama ,who was present for Infantino’s speech at Sergio Arboleda University, backed the president’s plan.
“Growing [the number] of teams is positive,” he said. “I think it’s a really good idea.”