Infantino: 'Overwhelming' support for 48-team World Cup
FIFA president Gianni Infantino claims global football federations are "overwhelmingly in favour" of his plans to expand the World Cup from 32 teams to 48.
The Swiss proposed in his election manifesto to change the format of eight groups of four teams to 16 groups of three teams, thereby accommodating an additional 16 countries. He initially received criticism for what was deemed a money-making idea, but that has been hushed by allegedly huge support from the six FIFA confederations.
The final decision is expected to be made in January, and the 2026 World Cup - which has Canada, the United States, Mexico, and Colombia declaring interest in bidding for the competition - would likely be the first tournament to see 48 teams in the event of a favourable result.
"We have to be more inclusive," Infantino said at a sports conference in Dubai, as quoted by BBC Sport, while admitting a bloated World Cup would reap more financial benefits.
"If we can have a format that does not add any additional matches but brings so much joy to those who don't have the chance to participate then we will have to think about that."
He added: "When discussed with the associations in the summits they were overwhelmingly in favour, but more discussions will have to take place."
The last time the World Cup added more teams was in 1998, when it expanded from 24 to 32 teams.
Although Infantino appears confident his plans will come to fruition, BBC Radio 5 Live's Richard Conway said a lot of the initiative could hinge on Europe's leaning. The European Club Association distanced itself from the 48-team format earlier this month due to it putting further strain on an already stacked club fixture list on the continent.
Gianni Infantino may well have "overwhelming" support for Fifa's 48-country World Cup plan - but it is not universal.
The European Clubs Association - which represents the biggest teams on the continent - is opposed. European teams provide 80 percent of the players to a World Cup so they are a significant stakeholder and will place pressure on UEFA.
UEFA is still to make its position clear but other confederations are likely to welcome an expanded tournament.
European nations take up a big proportion of the current 32 slots at the World Cup.
The next World Cup will be hosted in Russia in 2018.