Increasing the World Cup from 32 teams to 48, as proposed by FIFA president Gianni Infantino, would generate an additional $640 million (605 million euros), according to a confidential FIFA report seen by AFP on Friday.

An expanded tournament with 48 countries, featuring 16 groups of three teams, starting with the 2026 edition, would see revenues swell to $4.18 billion compared to the $3.54bn predicted for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Meanwhile, costs associated with enlarging the number of participating teams and an increase in matches (80 rather than 64 for a 32-team format) would climb by $325mn.

Money garnered from television rights would also rise by $505mn with marketing revenues accounting for an extra $370mn.

On the whole the revamped format, in which the top two in each three-team group would advance to the last 32, would yield $640mn more than the figures projected for the 2018 tournament and approved at the last FIFA Congress.

However, meeting those expectations for next year’s global showpiece in Russia already appears challenging with two major sponsor yet to be replaced.

Infantino will attempt to adopt the new format at Tuesday’s FIFA Council in Zurich.

During his campaign to succeed the ousted Sepp Blatter last February, the former UEFA secretary-general had thrown his support behind a 40-team event. That proposal will also be put forward to members of FIFA’s ruling body, with a version of eight groups of five and another of 10 groups of four, according to the report.

However, Infantino, the former right-hand man to ex-UEFA president Michel Platini, now favours the 48-team format, which would be played in the same timeframe (32 days) and number of venues (12) as the 2018 edition.

The allocation of additional places to each confederation has yet to be determined and is likely to be a critical component of Tuesday’s meeting at FIFA headquarters.

In a 40-team World Cup, Europe would gain one extra berth compared to its current 13, while Africa would be able to send seven teams rather than five with Asia’s allocation increasing from 4.5 to 6.

However, the 48-team proposition has attracted its fair share of critics. 

Last month, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin complained world football’s governing had not provided enough information on the matter, arguing the current 32-team format was a “system that works”.

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, chairman of the European Club Association (ECA), voiced his opposition and said leading players were already under too much strain.

Conversely, according to Spanish daily Mundo Deportivo, both Real Madrid president Florentio Perez and Barca chief Josep Bartomeu support Infantino.

“If the format that he (Infantino) proposes does well, it will certainly be a good thing for clubs and football in general,” Perez said recently in an interview with AFP. – Agence France-Presse

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