FIFA President Gianni Infantino has proposed expanding the World Cup tournament to 48 teams after previously suggesting a 40-team tournament.
The 40-team tournament proposal was part of the Italian’s manifesto when he was elected to the helm of football governing body. He has now gone a step further proposing an increased allocation.
Sixteen countries would be eliminated after a preliminary knockout round according to Infantino. The rest of the tournament would then continue as it is now with 32 teams competing in the group stages followed by the knockout rounds.
The 46-year-old said the decision on possible expansion would be taken in January. “We will debate them this month and we will decide everything by 2017.”
This will be one of the issues in which the newly formed FIFA council, rebranded from the shamed executive committee entrenched in Sepp Blatter’s corruption scandal, will be discussing when it meets next week.
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The idea will be welcomed across the Asian and African continent. The general consensus in these areas are that World Cup slots are not evenly allocated.
An opposer to the 48-team World Cup idea is German World Cup winning coach Joachim Low. ”I don’t think its a good idea to dilute the sporting value,” Low told a German newspaper.
He however claimed to understand the feeling of the smaller nations who can finally take their place on the big stage.
The World Cup was first expanded in 1994 from 24 teams to 32. Further proposals to expand the tournament have involved mathematical calculations and an unbalanced group stage.
Gianni Infantino’s solution will be avoiding the unbalances and mathematical contortions and will also bring a quarter of FIFA’s 211 members to the showpiece event.
It will however increase the burden on the host nation and the so called smaller nations. They will have to spend millions to prepare and travel just to play possibly one football match.