Big news for football fans, the 2026 World Cup will be more inclusive than ever before with President Gianni Infantino at the helm. The 2026 tournament will feature 46 teams, a fifty-percent increase from its current tally of 32 (a number that has remained the same since 1998). The unanimous decision was approved this morning in Zurich by FIFA’s thirty-seven members of the Official Council who represent their 211 national football associations worldwide.
Giving countries who are not known for their footballing proficiency the chance to take part in one of the biggest sporting events throughout the globe was the idea behind the change. “It seems like a fantastic idea to me” said Argentine football hero, Diego Maradona.
The FIFA Council unanimously decided on a 48-team #WorldCup as of 2026:
16 groups of 3 teams. Details to follow after the meeting.
— FIFA Media (@fifamedia) January 10, 2017
More teams sourced worldwide would see a breakdown something like this : Europe 16 teams (13 currently), Africa 9 (5), Asia 8.5 (4.5), South America 6 (4.5), Concacaf 6.5 (3.5), Oceania 1 (0.5), Host nation 1 (1).
What does this mean for the lay-out of the tournament? Well, the group stages will be more brief with 16 groups of 3 teams, instead of the usual 4. The top two teams from each group will then qualify for the following knock-out round with 32 teams still remaining.
“If the format that (Infantino) proposes starts to thrive, it will definitely be a good thing for clubs and for football in general” said Florentino Pérez, President of Real Madrid.
This upgrade for the tournament is going to see a tasty profit for FIFA, with the net income for the 2026 tournament predicted to see an increase of 640 million dollars compared to the 2018 edition in Russia.
The number of matches in the tournament will shoot up from its current duration of 64 to 80, totalling a whopping 7,200 minutes of game time and time means money. It is estimated that the capital generated from the sale of TV broadcasting rights will increase by 505 million dollars and the sale of marketing revenues by some 370 million dollars, according to analysis by Council members. Although costs will increase for the playing of the tournament (an expected 325 million dollars), it will still use 12 stadiums, the same as 2018 will see.