Zurich: FIFA is considering expanding the World Cup from 32 teams to 40 in 2026 and will discuss the proposal at a future meeting, with support particularly strong among Asian and African representatives. No formal agreement on the matter was reached at FIFA's Executive Committee meeting on Thursday, but ExCo member Wolfgang Niersbach said it will be discussed at a later date.
"No decision was taken on expanding the World Cup to 40 teams from 2026," Niersbach said in a written statement. "The Asian and African representatives on the executive committee were in favour of it. This matter has been put off until a future meeting." The debate on extending the World Cup came as a corruption scandal engulfing the organisation widened with fresh arrests.
The World Cup had been a 16-team competition before being expanded to 24 nations in 1982 and then to 32 for the first time in France in 1998. The bidding process for the 2026 World Cup was postponed in June due to the corruption scandal which has centred around the attribution of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 finals to Qatar.
Two leading FIFA officials -- Alfredo Hawit, the Honduran head of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) and South American Football Confederation chief Juan Angel Napout -- were arrested on Thursday in a dramatic dawn raid at a luxury hotel in Zurich. The arrests were carried out at the five-star Baur au Lac hotel, a favourite of FIFA's officials, and the same spot where seven top football executives were arrested in May on suspicion of involvement in tens of millions of dollars of corruption dating back decades.