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Continent Africa is going to be the main beneficiary of the unanimously approval of the expansion of the World Cup to 48 teams in 2026, with a format of 16 groups of three nations. The decision marks a major coup for the body’s president Gianni Infantino who has made enlarging football’s showcase event the centerpiece of his young administration.
Infantino had in recent weeks voiced confidence that his flagship project would be approved and that very fact came true on Tuesday. According to a confident Infantino a 48-team tournament would bring a cash boost of $640 million (605 million euros) above projected revenues for next year’s finals in Russia. But Infantino has also argued that more World Cup berths would help drive football’s global growth by boosting “inclusion” in the “biggest social and sporting event”.
So yet to be official Africa and Asia could be the big winners in a larger format with a rise in their number of places, currently at 5 and 4 respectively. Europe will also see its allotments rise above the current 13 places to 16.
The landmark decision to expand the tournament is the latest overhaul of the World Cup, which has seen its global popularity and financial might surge since the inaugural edition in 1930. That contest, won by Uruguay, had just 13 countries. The World Cup expanded to 24 teams in 1982 in Spain before moving to its current 32-team version at France 1998.