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Report: FIFA president Infantino wants 48-team World Cup

Photo by AFP: Fabrice Coffrini

An expanded World Cup officially has the backing of FIFA President Gianni Infantino.

Infantino, speaking during an event at Bogota’s Sergio Arboleda university, has suggested expanding the World Cup finals to 48 teams from the current 32, Reuters reported Monday.

In Infantino’s proposal, 16 of the teams in the new format would be eliminated after one knockout round. Then, the tournament would continue with 32 teams in the current World Cup format, with a group stage and an eight-team knockout phase.

“It means we continue with a normal World Cup for 32 teams, but 48 teams go to the party.” said Infantino, “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.”

Infantino added that a final decision would be made by the FIFA Council in January. Reuters reports that this has been confirmed by a FIFA spokesperson.

The purpose, Infantino was quoted as saying in the Reuters report, for expanding the World Cup is to develop sport for more nations.

“FIFA’s idea is to develop football in the whole world, and the World Cup is the biggest event there is,” he added. “It’s more than a competition, it’s a social event.”

The expansion debate is nothing new, as the growth of the European Championship from 16 teams to 24 last summer sparked debate about the size of that competition. Teams like Iceland and Wales made their case for inclusiveness, however, as the teams which wouldn’t have made the tournament in the 16-team format made winning runs.


  1. The only thing here as lamentably predictable as a questionable FIFA proposal probably just aimed at making ever more money is Old School’s knee-jerk patronizing of anyone who questions any aspect of his stated views.

  2. I propose all 200+ teams. I’m sure I’ll get every federations’ vote. This is all about money. More games, more money. Got to make up for all the money spent on lawyers defending Blatter, Platini and others.

  3. Or you could just do 40, with 5 teams per group. Top 2 advance, making the elimination rounds exactly like it used to be. Would give everybody an extra game for a guaranteed 4.

    Makes a lot more sense than just whacking 16 teams after one game.

  4. Translated from FIFA speak into plain English

    Infantino: We need to expand the field because China and India haven’t gotten much better and we need to expand viewership in those markets looking forward over the next 40 years. More eyeballs equals more money and if China and India can’t qualify by strengthening the coaching and player pool within their federation we as FIFA will come to them by increasing the field. Everyone makes more money but the fan has to watch some garbage matches until China and India catch up.

    • Bingo.

      It’s unfortunate that even needs to be translated but this thread highlights how gullible some people really are.

    • I agree that is what is going on… but seriously, just do what they did for the US… have them host a world cup… and if you don’t think they can host… then we shouldn’t be expanding the field.

      The Euro Cup first round was Fing dreadful as you had all sorts of teams playing Bunker Bob ball just to be 3rd place and make it through. It was absolutely horrific. Contrasted with the last world cup which was one of the best displays of soccer I have ever seen in my lifetime, it is even more awful. Why would you bring that to this stage?

      AND I will counter with this… instead of going to 48 teams… why not do a real seeding and go all NCAA on this problem. 64 teams sudden death elimination the whole way. 64 teams means there are enough weaklings that the top teams get at least 3/4 games… the intensity stays HIGH throughout… AND you bring more teams to the party, without meaningfully extending the tournament.

      OR I can counter with staying at 32 but doing 10 teams from NORTH/SOUTH America, 10 teams from EUROPE, 10 teams from Africa/Asia, and 2 at large bids based on a couple single elimination games between EU and the N/S Americans.

      • The format being thrown out there would be the antithesis of the dreadful bunker ball in the euros. The first 16 games would require teams to WIN. Team A goes up a goal, Team B will be forced to press or be eliminated after just 1 game. Except for games with large mismatches, games would open up after the first goal.

        It doesn’t fix the issue of stronger teams that want to bunker, but there’s no tournament format that eliminates that.

      • meh… these are not knockout round games between good teams that have talent… these are games where both teams will be super nervous about losing and will play with 3 guys forward and just take their penalty shots… only where there are mistakes will there be open ball.

  5. There’s almost no way to implement this well. 48 teams means a long and congested tournament would probably become both longer and more congested. If the group stage whittles it down from 48 to 32, you lose a lot of the intensity of the group stage. This is a high risk, low reward idea (unless you’re in charge of FIFA and are trying to curry favor with certain confederations – then there are rewards aplenty).

  6. No.

    Expanded fields are this generations “participation awards”. If you can’t make it into the field, you can’t have a chance at raising the trophy.

    …but of course, we know money talks. Hence, we have talks or actual expanded fields in almost every sport/league playoff now.

      • Many, but any need to provide them is baffling to me.

        “It means we continue with a normal World Cup for 32 teams, but 48 teams go to the party.” said Infantino, “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.”

        “Go to the party”. Well, the exclusivity of the “party” is a part of it’s allure. Expanding a field so the likes of Oman, Montenegro, or New Caledonia can join the festivities renders the festivities simply an invitational tournament.

        Why stop at 48? It’s a very slippery slope, and if you find watching the likes of Qatar taking on the likes of Uruguay (without being a host nation) then more power to you, but that’s a ridiculous showing. A part of the beauty of seeing a true underdog take on a powerhouse is the journey that earned them the spot – not that the spot was given so they can “go to the party”.

        It’s all centered around making money and has nothing to do with the fan experience, integrity of the game or competition. With FIFA and money so blatantly as it’s motivation…what could go wrong? Right? The field might as well include every nation and render qualification obsolete because if they can milk it for more money…that’s where we’re headed.

      • I asked for “a reason” you gave me your preferences. Quoting Infantino doesn’t change that fact.
        36 is just as random of a number as 48 or 56 and yes, the more the better when it comes to a “world” party
        Although I’m not necessarily sure I would enjoy watching Qatar-Uruguay, I can assure you the people in those countries would.
        Are you telling me that FIFA is in the business of making money? Really?? How dare they?
        All you ranted about here was an arbitrary set of rules you came up with without any coherent line of reason and purely based on your very narrow view of the most popular game in the world.
        Nothing more.

      • I provided you reasoning of why the quality would plummet, and the luster of actually making it to the World Cup would suffer for fans.

        Your preference has misguided you to believing that everyone is deserving of a seat at the table. Shocking logic that you’ve provided by stating a country would enjoy seeing their nation play in the World Cup. Really? You don’t say! Shocking logic that you’ve echoed my acknowledgement that FIFA is set to make money. Really? You don’t say!

        Also shocking is that you believe this would be good for the game, or so I would assume. After all, you’ve provided absolutely nothing to support that an expanded field, somehow, improves the quality. That would require reasoning, but I assume that’s why you asked to begin with: you’re still searching for one to support your preference.

        Yay, let’s all support FIFA making more money! That’s…what we tune into the World Cup for to see the money printed…right? Wrong.

    • Old School, it’s funny how old relics talk about participation trophies, given that kids and young adults today do, and are expected to do more far more than people did at comparable ages “back in the day”.

      The best part of my day at work is having a partner of manager ask me how to do a very basic task in excel, word or adobe, that not only can’t they figure out how to do on their own, but (for example) they can’t even google how to rotate a document 90 degrees and bypass the embarrassment of calling in a staff level employee to do it for them.

      The only thing old people are good at is complaining about young people and ruining things for said young people

      • That’s a neat story. Almost as neat as Mexico losing to Chile 7-0.

        Exciting as your job sounds and the anecdotal (and irrelevant) story about working with geriatrics is, admittedly, it was a shame you disappeared all too conveniently over the summer during the Copa Centenario. Much like your absence, your incredibly poor attempt to assume my age has led you to failure.

        To be fair, though, I shouldn’t be surprised a Mexico fan supports this proposal. After all, Graham Zusi won’t be around forever to help you qualify for the World Cup, but an expanded field certainly will.

        Keep up the inspiring work. You’re doing a great service to the community and deserve an award!

      • AzTexAn: Just because someone likes the way things currently are, rather than some new proposal to garner more votes at the next election, doesn’t necessarily make them old. It just means they have considered both options and prefer what is in front of them.

        The field was expanded to 24 teams in 1982, then expanded to 32 teams in 1998. Although new countries have been birthed in the past 2 decades (ie., following the break up of Yugoslavia and Soviet Union), the number of countries that have entered the FIFA world cup qualification process has remained steady at around 200. So there’s no basis to justify a 50% increase from 32 to 48, except for Infantino to be “the people’s president”…

        Congrats on your mastery of Microsoft Office, though. It sounds like your work days are filled with life-altering tasks…

      • Hmm, since my first response wasn’t that on topic, I’ll clarify what set me off. OS claims “Expanded fields are this generations “participation awards”.” when the reality of every expanded playoff structure in almost every professional or amateur sport is the direct result of a group of old dudes executing a money grab. It’s nothing more than a money grab. Follow the money. $$$. Please leave the kids out of this

        Also for the record, I agree the field shouldn’t expand to 48 teams

      • I will actually shut up though if you explain how “Expanded fields are this generations “participation awards””. Not only is it a phenomenon dating back beyond this generation in all sports, it’s almost completely driven by suits trying to make more money. It sounds like something Drunk Uncle would say on Weekend Update

  7. What might be truly exciting is global seeding. Let’s say you have everyone below Ranking spot 64 play on some sort of first stage tournament where 64 teams advance. Then you have 128 teams in a 16-group 8 teams in a double round robin, top 2 advance to the finals of 32 teams in the usual format. No confederations. England could travel to Honduras, USA to China in the biggest MegaPower confrontation since Hulk Hogan took on the Macho Man (R.I.P)

  8. The key is “diversity.” That’s how these FIFA execs get elected – they promise extra spots to the continents of Africa and Asia, whose many countries all get one vote.

    Hypothetically, where would another 16 teams come from? My guess would be five more from Africa, one each from North and South America, five from Asia, and four from Europe. Few of these teams are very likely to advance out of a group stage, and none have a realistic chance at winning. Would this really improve the World Cup tournament? Why not just cut to the chase and invite all 240 countries and territories?

  9. This is absolutely HORRIBLE! A single game knock out then, the group stage then another knockout stage???? Who designed that? Willy Wonka? If you want to add more teams fine…although I think 48 is too much. Ideally, (if you expand) 40 max (8 spots to CAF/CONCACAF/AFC only) with 10 groups of 4 (top 2 + 4 advancing). Ideally, I would keep the same number of spaces, roll Oceania into AFC with 5 spots, keep CONCACAF and COMNEBOL at 3.5 and 4.5 will the 4th team and 5th from each confederation playing for the last spot. Maybe take a spot or 2 from from Europe (they don’t need 13). Give that extra spot or 2 to AFC, CAF or CONCACAF.

  10. It’s a potentially exciting format. The devil is in the details. Who gets seeded? How is the draw for that first elimination round set? Etc.

  11. I’m torn on this. I do think that expanding the field will make for a more exciting WC by adding even more diversity to tournament field, however, it would dramatically decrease the level of excitement/intensity for CONCACAF WCQ.

    • Pretty much if you qualify for the Hex you qualify for the WC. We would already be in the tournament at this point and our most meaningful game would have been against T&T.

    • Let’s be realistic at this point the U.S qualifying for the World Cup is a forgone conclusion. It’s exciting to us but for everyone else it’s just a formality. I think there’s more to be gained from more nations being able to participate in the worlds biggest tournament albeit an easier way to make it to the group stages. My only problem is I think a 48 team World Cup is problematic in terms of pure numbers but it’s do-able. That being said 32 teams is a good format and there’s nothing wrong with it.

      • Ya, it will mainly remove the intensity of our qualifying cycle. While I expect us to qualify for the WC every cycle there is still the possibility of it not happening, see Mexico this last qualifying cycle. Currently, every Hex match matters and are super exciting/intense to watch. The new format, outside of the Gold Cup, almost renders our rivalry with Mexico a non-factor. That makes me a little sad.

      • The best solution would probably be to expand the Hex to 8 teams (The Octagon?!?!) with the same format. Keeps the rivalries and intensity at a high.

      • I doubt the hex will expand to an “octagon” format. If anything they will expand the final round of qualifying to 2 groups of 4 or 5 like Asia does it. An “octagon” would require 4 extra FIFA matchdays and would extend the length of the final round by at least 3-4 months. With all the minnows CONCACAF has to winnow out there’s probably not enough time to make the overall CONCACAF qualifying process any longer.

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