Following a vote in Zurich on Tuesday, FIFA has decided to expand the World Cup to host 48 teams instead of 32.
The governing body of the world’s most played sport decided unanimously when its council met on Tuesday.
The change will see an increase in tournament matches from 64 to 80, but it will still only take seven matches for a team to be crowned champions.
The decision comes amidst huge backlash from European clubs, who are against the expansion due to the potential for an extended off-season.
FIFA however assured that the tournament would not take more than 32 days to complete.
The change will be in effect from the 2026 World Cup, meaning that the upcoming tournaments in Russia and Qatar will go ahead as per usual, with 32 teams vying for football’s top prize.
Objectors believe that the move is motivated by political and financial reasons rather than a sporting one, with the expansion estimated to bring in an extra US$1 billion in revenue for FIFA.
Other have also questioned the urgency of the decision given that the first tournament to apply the change takes place nine years from now.
The group stages will consist of 16 groups of three, with the top two teams progressing to a knockout round of 32.
The expansion will also mean that more countries will get to participate, with each continent receiving its fair share of added allocation. Europe will see an increase to 16 teams (13 currently), Africa 9 (5), Asia 8.5 (4.5), South America 6 (4.5), Concacaf 6.5 (3.5), Oceania 1 (0.5) and Host nation 1 (1).
The move will be a welcomed one for Asian and African countries, with an extra 4 slots each. South America, on the other hand, only received an increase of 1.5 teams despite having nine World Cup wins in total.