March 29, 2016 / 11:13 PM / 3 years ago

Infantino suggests 40-team finals could come in 2026

MONTEVIDEO (Reuters) - Broadening the World Cup finals to include 40 teams could come about in 2026, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said during a tour of South America on Tuesday.

Fifa's President Gianni Infantino gestures alongside President of Uruguay's soccer club Penarol Juan Pedro Damiani and President of the Uruguayan Football Association (AUF) Wilmar Valdez during his visit to Penarol's stadium Campeon del Siglo in Montevideo, Uruguay March 29, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Stapff

South America would get five places in a 40-team tournament, Infantino added at a news conference in the Uruguayan capital.

Infantino, elected present of world soccer’s governing body last month, reiterated his wish to increase the number of teams at the game’s four-yearly showpiece event.

“We must open (the finals) up to more … The idea would be from 2026,” Infantino said.

We’re going to talk about this with everyone: players, the (FIFA) council.”

“Not only do you give lots of teams the possibility of taking part, but also to many of dreaming of a place (in the finals).

The finals have had 32 teams since 1998 and the champions, who used to automatically qualify as holders, have had to go into the qualifying phase from the 2006 tournament. Infantino said he did not plan to change this policy under the new plans.

South America has four automatic berths and one in an intercontinental playoff for a 32-team tournament.

“My proposal for South America is five fixed (places) and maybe one more to play for on the pitch,” Infantino said.

He did not say how the eight new places would be distributed or played for.

The hosts for the 2026 finals have yet to be voted on while the 2018 tournament will be held in Russia and 2022 in Qatar.

Infantino was at regional body CONMEBOL headquarters in Asuncion, Paraguay on Monday where he viewed favorably the idea of the centenary 2030 tournament being staged jointly by Uruguay and Argentina who played the first final in 1930.

The neighboring countries have won the trophy twice each.

Reporting by Malena Castaldi; writing by Rex Gowar, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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