The Fifa World Cup will include 48 countries from 2026 onwards, expanded from the current 32-nation format, Fifa announced this morning.
World football's governing body said the decision to expand the men's tournament had been 'unanimous', in a tweet posted by the Fifa press department.
The FIFA Council unanimously decided on a 48-team #WorldCup as of 2026:— FIFA Media (@fifamedia) January 10, 2017
16 groups of 3 teams. Details to follow after the meeting.
Fifa's own Twitter account retweeted this message shortly after.
The organisation's president Gianni Infantino, who took over from Sepp Blatter in Feburary last year, had outlined plans to expand the number of teams in the tournament during his campaign to become Fifa's boss.
Under the new format, 48 countries will compete in smaller groups of three teams, playing each other once, with two countries from each group progressing further to a 32-team knockout stage.
The current tournament format sees 32 nations play three matches in groups of four teams, with the top two nations in each group progressing to a round of 16.
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The expanded World Cup is to be played over 32 days and will see 80 matches in total, 25 per cent more games than the current 64 matches in a 32-team world cup.
Critics of the plans say including more nations in the main tournament will lead to a higher number of less competitive matches, and that the rewards for taking part will be reduced for countries who fail to reach the next stage after playing only two matches. Currently all teams in a World Cup play at least three games.
However Fifa is expected to announce in a press briefing at 11am today that the expansion will generate more than $1bn additional revenue, which can be distributed among the organisation's 211 member nations.
The six confederations that make up Fifa's members will discover in May this year how many places each will have available to them.