Future World Cups could see 48 teams progress from the qualifying campaigns if plans suggested by FIFA president Gianni Infantino are approved.
Part of Infantino’s manifesto when he ran for election earlier this year was to expand the competition from 32 to 40 teams, but his latest comments have hinted at an even bigger competition.
The 46-year-old had vowed to give “eight additional countries the opportunity to participate” football’s global showpiece, and was impressed with the expanded European Championship in 2016.
Eight new places could grow to 16 if Infantino’s new plan is approved by the FIFA council in 2017, with the revamped competition having a preliminary phase to reach the group stages.
“The idea is that 16 teams would qualify directly to the group stage and the other 32 would play in a preliminary phase, in the country where the World Cup is being played – they would play for the remaining 16 places,” he said on a visit to the Sergio Arboleda University in Bogota.
“It means we continue with a normal World Cup for 32 teams, but 48 teams go to the party.
“FIFA’s idea is to develop football in the whole world, and the World Cup is the biggest event there is. It’s more than a competition, it’s a social event.
“These are ideas to find the best solution, we will debate them this month and we will decide everything by 2017.
“They are ideas which we put forward to see which one is the best.”