ZURICH • A confidential report sent to Fifa members has claimed that World Cup Finals revenues will increase by about US$1 billion (S$1.44 billion) if the tournament is expanded to 48 teams.
The 65-page document contains a detailed financial analysis that forecasts revenues in 2026 being US$6.5 billion if there are 16 groups of three teams in the World Cup Finals, compared with US$5.5 billion for next year's tournament with 32 teams in Russia.
Although the costs of staging a larger tournament would also increase, Fifa would make a surplus of US$4.2 billion instead of US$3.5 billion.
Fifa council members look certain to agree to the expanded format at a meeting in Zurich today.
The report does contain a warning that Fifa should make the decision on sporting rather than commercial reasons. Still, the financial rewards on offer appear to be the final persuading factor for the council members, most of whom are under pressure to secure more spots for their confederations.
The report also recommends staging matches at times "that are convenient for major markets, regardless of the time zone in the host market, which would offer the greatest potential viewership", to maximise income.
It also confirms last month's report by The Times of London that Fifa is considering a proposal that all group matches at an expanded World Cup (where there would be 16 pools of three teams) must end in victory-defeat, by a penalty shoot-out if necessary, to prevent results being contrived by opponents in the final group games.
The report states: "The 16x3 format would only face issues relating to an odd number of teams in the group stage (rest days, simultaneous kick-offs).
"Measures could also be taken to mitigate these issues (for example, clear results at the end of each match through penalty shoot-outs)."
There is not likely to be a decision on penalty shoot-outs today - that will be subject to another fact-finding mission before it can be confirmed.
The 2026 World Cup is likely to be held in north and/or central America - Fifa has said that Europe and Asia cannot host the tournament with the 2018 and 2022 events in Russia and Qatar respectively.
Fifa president Gianni Infantino has said that he favours the tournament being co-hosted, which has made the United States along with Mexico or Canada the favourites.
THE TIMES, LONDON