World Cup finals could be expanded to 48 teams

Asian teams could benefit from extra places in the World Cup finals under a proposal from FIFA president Gianni Infantino to expand the tournament to 48 sides.

The first expansion of the World Cup since 1998 is one of several possibilities due to go before the FIFA council next month after Infantino became head of the organisation earlier this year.

“Everyone sees that the increase of the participation for the World Cup is really a tool to promote football in more countries,” Infantino said last month after including the expansion of the tournament as part of his election manifesto.

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Infantino’s initial proposal had been to increase the competition to 40 teams, and that remains one of the possibilities due to go before the council.

However, it appears that the strongest possibility now is for 16 groups of three teams, with the top two qualifying for the knock-out stage of the competition – potentially leading to more representatives from Asia, Africa and Australasia.

No changes would be expected to come into place until the 2026 tournament, even though Infantino’s term comes to a conclusion in 2019.

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