WORLD CUP GROWTH: FIFA President Gianni Infantino wants 48 countries in the World Cup.
WORLD CUP GROWTH: FIFA President Gianni Infantino wants 48 countries in the World Cup. YURI KOCHETKOV

FIFA chief pushes for 48 teams in World Cup

THE Socceroos' chances of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup will be enhanced when the FIFA World Cup expands to 48 teams, as seems likely.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino had flagged an increase of eight nations to 40 teams, but it appears 16 teams will be added to world football's prestigious international tournament.

Four proposals will be tabled at a FIFA meeting on January 9 - retaining the status quo, a 40-team tournament and two 48-team formats.

It's believed that the increase will start from the 2026 World Cup, most likely in North America.

Australia has qualified for three straight World Cups and the Asian Confederation would likely get an increase from 4.5 to at least six direct spots, with Oceania set to get a direct place.

Speaking at the Dubai International Sports Conference on Wednesday, Infantino said the 48-team format had strong backing.

"We have to be more inclusive,” Infantino said.

"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.

"When discussed with the associations in the summits they were overwhelmingly in favour, but more discussions will have to take place.

"I'm still convinced about expanding the number of participating teams at the World Cup beyond 32 teams.

"We are still considering whether to increase it to 40 or 48 teams. A format of 48 teams would be played over the same period as the current format, and the federations are all clearly in favour of a World Cup with more teams.

"Financially, the 48-team format is the most appealing or successful simply because the sporting element is prevailing and every match is important.

"The decision should not be financially driven, neither in terms of revenue or costs. The driver should really be the development of football and boosting football all over the world.”

A joint 2026 World Cup bid from United States, Canada and Mexico is possible, according to CONCACAF and Canadian FA president Victor Montagliani, who was speaking on stage with Infantino.

"The opportunity for a joint bid, I think that door is wide open,” Montagliani said.

"At face value I don't see it being a challenge and I think any administration, whether it be in the west or in my case Canada, or in Mexico, would be supportive of an event like the World Cup. And no pun intended, I would think the World Cup would trump any political issues.”

HERALD SUN



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