FIFA expands World Cup to 48 teams for 2026 tournament

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Qatar, a tiny, gas-rich emirate, secured hosting rights after winning a controversial bidding competition in 2010 ahead of an offer from the U.S. Allegations of wrongdoing by voters - including some who were later charged in a separate corruption case by the U.S. - led Federation Internationale de Football Association to change the way World Cup hosts are selected.

Here we look at the format for the bigger World Cup finals.

One of the concerns is that the new format will make the group stage merely a matter of avoiding elimination, and so encourage negative play.

Australia in 1974 and 2006, and New Zealand in 1982 and 2010, are the only sides to qualify for the World Cup finals from Oceania.

"Maybe the time has come when we don't do things on winks and nods any more", he said.

Africa and Asia could also benefit from the expansion, with up to nine places each.

The decision marks a major coup for the body's President Gianni Infantino who has made enlarging football's showcase event the centre-piece of his young administration.

"We will see if we will present a case to the competition commissioner of the European Union or also to the competition institutions in Switzerland", he said. "It's no point England campaigning for the World Cup, like they have in the past, when the European vote is split".

And while Kerr outlined his reasons for being against expanding the tournament, the former St Patrick's Athletic boss was also critical of the proposed format of future World Cup, where three-team groups will feature, while drawn group games will be decided by a penalty shoot-out. It made 10,000 tournament simulations to reach that conclusion. Only 16 qualified for the finals up until the 1982 edition in Spain, where 24 teams competed in a tournament which featured two group stages before the semi-finals.

Instead, three-team groups will replace the usual groups of four to create simple progress to a knockout bracket.

Was the move one driven politically to shore up support for the new FIFA President by appeasing the non-European and South American nations much, as his maligned predecessor had so adroitly done?

While the number of fixtures will increase from 64 to 80 in the expanded version of the World Cup, the tournament will still be held over four weeks, meaning it won't drag on forever as previously anticipated, and a champion will be crowned after playing the same number of matches as in the current set-up.

Uniting the US and Mexico could win support from more than 20 Spanish-speaking federations among 211 FIFA members that now choose the World Cup hosts.

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