After a voting on 10th January, 2017, Soccer governing body FIFA has agreed to feature 48 teams instead 32 in world cup football. The change will take place 2026 onwards. The place for 2026 world cup will be decided in 2020. Current FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in a statement, “more can participate and many more will have a chance to dream”. Currently 135 of FIFA’s associate countries have never qualified for football world cup.
The decision has received mixed reactions. While many associate countries have welcomed the decision some fear this would lower the overall standard of the competition and encourage negative play. President Infantino said that despite featuring 16 more teams, tournament will be completed within the same amount of days using the same number of stadiums. The new format will have 16 teams play in groups of three. Top 2 from each group will qualify for a round of 32 teams as the knockout stages begin.
Even under new format, the winning team will play 7 matches as before. However, there have been concerns that teams will employ negative tactics during group stages just to qualify. Also the impetus to qualify for the world cup will be less for bigger teams as more slots will be available. Infantino said FIFA was thinking about introducing penalty shootout in the group matches to avoid negative play.