FIFA will decide whether to implement president Gianni Infantino’s plans to expand the World Cup to 40 teams by 2026 in October.
Infantino pledged to increase the number of nations participating in the World Cup by eight should he win election as Sepp Blatter’s successor and FIFA announced its bidding process for the 2026 tournament on Tuesday.
During FIFA’s Congress in Mexico City, it has been decided there will be a four-stage bidding process for that World Cup, before a decision is made on the hosts in May 2020.
In a statement, world football’s governing body said these phases include “a new strategy and consultation phase (May 2016 – May 2017), enhanced phases for bid preparation (June 2017 – December 2018), bid evaluation (January 2019 – February 2020), culminating in a decision in May 2020”.
The statement added that the consultation phase will focus on four areas: “The inclusion of human rights requirements, sustainable event management and environmental protection in the bidding; principle exclusion of bidders that do not meet technical requirements; review of the current stance on joint bids; number of teams.”
The full consultation process is expected to be completed by May 2017, but FIFA intends to reach a decision on the number of teams, formats and eligibility of confederations by October this year.
Speaking in March, a month after his election, Infantino said: “We must open the finals up to more teams. The idea would be from 2026. We’re going to talk about this with everyone: players, the FIFA council.
“Not only do you give lots of teams the possibility of taking part, but also to many of dreaming of a place in the finals.”