World Cup expansion for 2026 not a question of 'if' but of 'by how much'
Coming out of last week’s FIFA Council meeting, the word is that World Cup expansion for the 2026 competition is “definitely” happening. The question is whether the final decision in January will expand the World Cup to 40 or 48 teams from the current format that features 32.
After the FIFA Council meeting in Zurich, FIFA president Gianni Infantino told reporters that "the general feeling is rather positive," toward expansion, adding that "the level of quality of football is increasing all over the world" as a qualifier. He ran for FIFA president on the platform of expanding the competition to 40 teams but has also mentioned 48 as another possibility.
The World Cup has incrementally expanded over time.
It began with 13 nations at the inaugural competition in 1930 and grew to 16 from 1934 to 1978. Eight more teams were added for a 24-team field in 1982, and it remained that way through 1994. The last round of expansion took place in 1998, when it became the 32-team edition that is used today and will be in 2018 in Russia and 2022 in Qatar.