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The Fifa Council has backed plans to expand the World Cup to 48 teams from 2026 onwards.

Fifa president Gianni Infantino’s revamp plan was given unanimous backing at today’s meeting in Zurich.

Under the new format teams will be placed in 16 groups of three with the leading two teams in each group advancing to a knockout stage. The number of tournament matches will rise to 80, from 64, but the eventual winners will still play only seven games.

With 80 matches instead of 64, FIFA forecasts $1 billion extra income from broadcasting and sponsor deals, plus ticket sales, compared to $5.5bn forecast for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Delegates in Zurich were asked to vote on four proposals to change the existing format or stick with the current format of 32 teams.

This is the first time since the 1998 World Cup that changes have been made to the tournament format.

More details will be announced when Tuesday’s meeting has concluded – although the allocation of the extra 16 qualification slots under the new format was not expected to be resolved at this point. African and Asian nations, currently under-represented imn the present format are expecting significant increases on their current allocation of four spots apiece.

Fifa chief Gianni Infantino included the move as a central plank of his Fifa presidential election manifesto and has repeatedly advocated an expanded tournament since last February’s election.

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