UEFA backs Federation Internationale de Football Association plans for expanded World Cup

1 Zvonomir Boban 2 Alexsandar Ceferin 3 Geremi 4 Alex Scott 5 Gianni Infantino 6 Diego Maradona 7 Lucas Radebe 8 Gabriel Batistuta 9 Francesco Toldo 10 Pablo Aimar 11 Michel Salgado 12 David Trezeguet

1 Zvonomir Boban 2 Alexsandar Ceferin 3 Geremi 4 Alex Scott 5 Gianni Infantino 6 Diego Maradona 7 Lucas Radebe 8 Gabriel Batistuta 9 Francesco Toldo 10 Pablo Aimar 11 Michel Salgado 12 David Trezeguet

New Fifa president Gianni Infantino promised increased funding for all 211 of its member associations when he was elected in February previous year. This includes the possibility of legal action, after prior pressure opposing the move, failed to stall FIFA President Gianni Infantino and the council from announcing the unanimous decision.

An expanded version of the tournament would likely feature 16 groups of three teams each, with the top two from each group in the first round moving on to a 32-team knockout phase. They'll enter groups where two of three teams advance, instead of two of four.

The expansion is also a money-maker - "FIFA forecasts the equivalent of $1 billion extra income at current rates from broadcasting and sponsor deals, plus ticket sales", according to The Associated Press.

Football's powerful European Club Association (ECA) was against the 48-team format, describing the 32-team model as "the ideal formula".

Federation Internationale de Football Association said its decision-making panel voted unanimously in favour of the change drawn up by its president, Gianni Infantino, who brushed aside criticisms it would lower the overall standard of the tournament, and make it too big and unwieldy.

Some had opposed the idea, with German FA President Reinhard Grindel last week saying that it held "considerable weaknesses" and that he was "fundamentally convinced that the tried-and-tested model of 32 participating nations should be held", the Guardian reported.

The new format will see 16 groups of three teams competing to reach the knockout stages, while every single match that finishes in a draw, group stages or otherwise, will be decided by a penalty shootout.

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In the long term, however, improving the quality of teams further down the pecking order, as this plan should, ought to make for more competitive, and therefore interesting, football matches.

The 2026 World Cup may feel unusual, but that event is not the be-all and end-all. Asia has 46 teams and only four spots. This is expected to raise the total profits from the World Cup to almost Pounds 3.5 billion.

But Infantino told the BBC: "It is the opposite, it's a football decision".

However, European clubs had reportedly voiced against such a move arguing that the expansion will add to the already-packed football schedule across the globe.

FIFA's research has suggested that an expanded tournament would rake in an additional 632 million dollars profit on the current format, with the tournament revenue increasing to 6.42 billion dollars.

Africa and Asia could be the big winners with a rise in their number of World Cup places - now five for Africa and between four and five for Asia. This is also the first time since 1998, World Cup format has been modified as the global showpiece event had 24 teams until then. A single slot is also reserved for the country that hosts the tournament.