Federations 'overwhelmingly in favour' of 48-team World Cup - Infantino
FIFA president Gianni Infantino has reiterated that the proposed move to a 48-team World Cup from 2026 has support from around the globe.
Infantino is quoted by the BBC as saying federations are "overwhelmingly in favour" of the move. He had already revealed earlier this month that the proposal to expand the tournament to 48 nations had received large support.
Speaking Infantino also hinted that video assistant referees (VAR) could one day be used at a World Cup after its implementation at the Club World Cup earlier in December.
"I'm still convinced about expanding the number of participating teams at the World Cup beyond 32 teams," he told the International Sports Conference in Dubai.
"We are still considering whether to increase the number 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."
On Friday, FIFA research concluded that the best and most profitable way to expand the World Cup is to 48 teams, comprised of 16 three-team groups with the top two going through to a regular round-of-32 knockout format.
Although the in-house research accepted that the current 32-nation format produces the highest quality football, the 48-team version provides the best all-round benefits.
The proposed format is one of five options put forward for the 2026 World Cup, the first when change can be made.
"Financially, the 48-team format is the most appealing or successful simply because the sporting element is prevailing and every match is important,'' Infantino said. "The decision should not be financially driven, neither in terms of revenue or costs ... but the driver should really be the development of football and boosting football all over the world.''
FIFA concluded: "The 48-team (16x3) format would appear to offer the most tangible and intangible value."
With extra knockout games in a new round of 32, the format of 80 matches -- each in an exclusive time slot over 32 days -- appeals to broadcasters and sponsors and would raise income, FIFA suggests.
FIFA's ruling council is set to vote on the proposed changes at a meeting next month, but the organisation said "it should not be a financial decision" and that "the goal of expanding the World Cup is to further advance the vision to promote the game of football, protect its integrity and bring the game to all."
Keeping the 32-team format is one option but FIFA's research shows the clear intent to change that was promised during Infantino's election.
North America is considered the most likely host of the 2026 World Cup, having not staged the showpiece since 1994 in the United States. CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani said a joint bid between his native Canada, the United States and Mexico remains a possible contender in the 2020 vote.
Montagliani does not believe Donald Trump's comments during the divisive U.S. presidential campaign about Mexicans will have any impact on the ability of the U.S. to work with Mexico on a bid.
"I think it's pretty obvious the president-elect is a supporter of sports, a supporter of the Olympic movement, he builds golf courses,'' Montagliani said. "As it relates to sport, on face value I don't see it [Trump] being a challenge. I think any administration ... will be supporter of the World Cup.''
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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