The football governing body, FIFA announced after a council meeting on Tuesday in Zurich that World Cup finals will be expanded to 48 teams from 2026.
The proposal was backed “unanimously” according to FIFA on Twitter and represents a 50 per cent increase from the present number of 32 teams.
It was the favoured plan of FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who pledged to increase the size of the tournament during his election campaign.
Participating countries will be divided into 16 groups of three at the finals, likely creating a tournament with 80 matches – up from the current 64.
Details about the exact format will be provided by FIFA at the conclusion of the council meeting but it is expected the top two teams of each group will progress to a knock-out phase.
That would mean the eventual winners lift the trophy after seven matches, as they do now.
Penalty shoot-outs could also be used following draws in group matches.