Football: Fifa chief Gianni Infantino confirms World Cup format under revision

Fifa president Gianni Infantino attends a press conference in Kazan on Nov 26, 2016, ahead of the draw for the 2017 Fifa Confederations Cup.
Fifa president Gianni Infantino attends a press conference in Kazan on Nov 26, 2016, ahead of the draw for the 2017 Fifa Confederations Cup. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - Fifa president Gianni Infantino confirmed on Thursday (Dec 8) that the world football body is looking to expand the World Cup, starting from the 2026 edition.

In Singapore for the Dec 6-8 Fifa executive football summit, he said three new formats are being considered, but that member associations he spoke to at the Singapore summit seem to favour a new 48-team competition featuring 16 groups of three.

Speaking at the Four Seasons Singapore, which hosted the summit, Infantino said: "I believe in the expansion of the World Cup... because I think more teams in the World Cup means more countries involved in the top football competition in the world (and this) means more football promotion.

"Whatever format will be decided by the Fifa council... we've discussed this at summit meetings and all the associations are for an expansion."

Besides the 16 groups of three, where the top two from each group will qualify for a round of 32, another 48-team format includes 16 countries qualifying directly for the group stages, and a remaining 32 teams competing for 16 spots in the group stage.

The group stage will then start with eight groups of four teams, similar to the current format.

 

Finally there is also a proposed 40-team version featuring 10 groups of four, where the 10 group winners and six-best runners-up will qualify for the last 16.

Infantino added: "Just to be very clear, all these formats can be played in the same number of days as currently, with the same number of stadiums, currently 12, and that the two teams qualifying for the final will play seven games.

"There is no downside for players and clubs, but there is a big upside for football because it allows more teams... to participate in the World Cup."

He rejected the notion that this will dilute the competitiveness of football's marquee competition, given that the level of football around the world is improving.

The Swiss-Italian pointed to how traditional powerhouses Italy and England were pipped to a place in the knock-out phase at the last World Cup by minnows Costa Rica as an example.

He also spoke about the upcoming Football Association of Singapore (FAS) elections, which will be held by next May.

"Sometimes to do the right thing takes a bit of time, that's part of life as well, and now there is a new constitution in the FAS in line with Fifa requirements... and everything is well on track," said Infantino.