AP Exclusive: FIFA research points to 3-team groups at WCup

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GENEVA (AP) FIFA's in-house research says the best and most profitable World Cup expansion is a 48-team tournament of 16 three-team groups.

The 64-page document seen by The Associated Press accepts that the current 32-nation format produces the highest quality soccer.

But with FIFA President Gianni Infantino committed to letting more member countries play, the ''16x3'' format announced this month rates highest of five options for the 2026 World Cup.

FIFA concludes 16x3 ''would appear to offer the most tangible and intangible value.''

FIFA suggests the preferred format of 80 matches, each in an exclusive time slot over 32 days, would earn around 20 percent more income from broadcasters, sponsors and ticket sales.

Still, FIFA cautions that a Jan. 10 vote by its ruling Council ''should not be a financial decision.''