Gianni Infantino’s proposal to expand the World Cup to a 48-team tournament is expected to be given official backing by FIFA on Tuesday.
The FIFA president laid out plans to allow a further 16 teams to qualify for the finals in 2026 as part of his campaign for the top job last year.
The FIFA Council, the organisation’s strategic body, will decide on a preferred format for the tournament when it meets in Zurich on Tuesday.
Although there are five World Cup proposals in total, expectations are growing that a 48-team option will win a majority vote among the Council’s 37 members.
Nigerian Football Federation president Amaju Pinnick – though not a member of the Council – said on Monday that there was big positivity around an expanded tournament, especially from within Africa.
“So far, everybody’s excited about it,” he said, as quoted by The Guardian. “I wouldn’t say there’s 100 per cent support but all my colleagues I’ve spoken to – all my colleagues – are excited about it.
“I’m not going to say 100 per cent because I haven’t spoken to everybody, but certainly most of Africa is excited about it.”
World Cup-winners Diego Maradona and Carles Puyol have also spoken in favour of the 48-team format, as has Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, who believes it could offer better protection to players.
DFB president Reinhard Grindel has opposed the change, as has the influential European Club Association, which represents the interests of the major sides across the continent.
“In the interest of the fans and the players, we urge FIFA not to increase the number of World Cup participants,” ECA chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said. “Politics and commerce should not be the exclusive priority in football.”
English Football Association chief Martin Glenn has also stated that he would prefer the smaller format to remain, although it is reported that England would vote to back the expansion as long as there were guaranteed extra places for European teams.
Infantino’s plan would see 48 teams split into 16 groups of three teams, with the top two in each progressing to a round-of-32 knockout stage.
Another option for a 48-team tournament would see a one-game knockout round involving 32 sides, with the winners joining another 16 teams who had already qualified for the main draw.
There are also two proposals for 40-team tournaments, one involving 10 groups of four – in which only six runners-up would advance to the knockouts – and the other split into eight groups of five.
The fifth choice would be to keep the current format of 32 teams playing a total of 64 matches.
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