It’s confirmed. It’s happening. It really has come to this.
Starting with the 2026 tournament, the World Cup – the most prestigious, famous competition in international football – will feature 48 different nations.
With 48 squads of 23 men, that means there will be 1,104 players at the 2026 World Cup. Kind of hard to maintain the idea that FIFA’s showpiece competition remains the ultimate platform for a footballer when there will be more than a thousand of them there.
Nonetheless, FIFA chief Gianni Infantino has just had his proposal for a 48-team competition signed off by the FIFA Council – which means that it is now set in stone.
And this is a decision which has got fans everywhere asking some very pertinent questions…
1. How are Panini going to cope with the increased sticker production?
— Gandermonium (@Gandermonium) January 10, 2017
48 teams in the next World Cup? I have immediately bought shares in Panini.
— Richard Osman (@richardosman) January 10, 2017
Since 1970 a collection of Panini stickers has accompanied each FIFA World Cup, held every four years.
Each Panini album is not just a practical guide to the various rounds of the tournament, but it also provides a valuable visual archive of all the teams and their memorable matches.
2. Which lowly nation will inevitably knock England out?
BREAKING: The 2026 World Cup will include 48 teams…
….which means England will now get knocked out by Poundland and Lego Land. pic.twitter.com/Zl1U6c1d5o
— SPORF (@Sporf) January 10, 2017
FIFA confirm a 48-team World Cup from 2026, which will give teams such as Burkina Faso and Lego Land the opportunity to eliminate England
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) January 10, 2017
3. Will Scotland finally qualify?
#Fifa expand WorldCup to 48 teams, Scotland still won't qualify
— Ian Cusick (@iancusick) January 10, 2017
4. What will the ‘Group of Death’ look like?
So in 2026… who is looking forward to the so called 'group of death' clashes in group P ?!#WorldCup
— Daniel Williams (@Danielclearcut) January 10, 2017
5. Where are we going to put the wallchart?
6. What was the motivation for introducing the new format?
— Jonathan Carlson (@Grumpy_Cat_Jon) January 10, 2017
7. And finally… WHY THE HELL DID THEY CHANGE IT?
A moment’s silence for the 32-team World Cup pic.twitter.com/2btrC0FCpY
— Bleacher Report UK (@br_uk) January 10, 2017