European Club Association says move to expand the World Cup due to "political reasons rather than sporting ones"

From 2026, the World Cup will feature 48 teams that will be divided into 16 groups of three

News of FIFA's expansion of the World Cup from 2026 was met with skepticism from many parts of the wider footballing community. 

After a unanimous decision, the tournament will be expanded to 48 teams as opposed to 32 and will see teams divided up into 16 groups of three.

Under the new format, more teams outside of Europe will be given the chance to play for the most prestigious prize in football and could help fund extra money for FIFA's 211 members.

On Tuesday afternoon, the European Club Association - which represents elite clubs playing on the continent - expressed its disappointment at the move and said that the move for all intents and purposes was "regrettable".

"The European Club Association reiterates that it is in principle not in favour of an expanded World Cup," a statement read.

"We fail to see the merits to changing the current format of 32 that has proven to be the perfect formula from all perspectives. Questionable is also the urgency in reaching such an important decision, with nine years to go until it becomes applicable, without the proper involvement of stakeholders who will be impacted by this change.

"We understand that this decision has been taken based on political reasons rather than sporting ones and under considerable political pressure, something ECA believes is regrettable.

"ECA will analyse in detail the impact and the consequences of the new format and will address the matter at the next meeting of its Executive Board scheduled for the end of January."

Germany are the current World Cup holders after they beat Argentina in the final of the competition in Brazil in 2014. Image: Mike Egerton / PA Archive/PA Images 

FIFA has forecast the move will equate to $1bn (€946m) of extra income from broadcasting and sponsorship deals as well as ticket sales.

The governing body also reiterated that it does not expect the quality of the competition to drop, despite the fact an addition 16 teams of potentially lower ranking will be introduced to the tournament.