Europe’s top clubs don’t want FIFA to expand the World Cup to 48 teams

BY Aaron West • December 15, 2016

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has enthusiastically revealed his plans to expand the World Cup to 48 teams, but he's coming up against some significant opposition: The European Club Association (ECA).

The ECA is made up of 220 of Europe's top clubs, and they're vehemently against the idea of adding teams to the tournament. "In the interest of the fans and the players, we urge FIFA not to increase the number of World Cup participants," wrote ECA chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in a statement ahead of the FIFA Council's possible decision on the matter on January 10th.

The ECA executive board — whose members include heavy hitters like the chief executives of Arsenal, Celtic and Manchester United — has written to Infantino to protest against the idea, citing the "unacceptable" number of games played already by the top players.

"Politics and commerce should not be the exclusive priority in football," added Rummenigge, who also serves as Bayern Munich's chairman.

It makes sense that the ECA has a close interest in this matter: their research before the 2014 World Cup found that European clubs employed more than 76 percent of players in the Brazil World Cup. If current trends hold, European clubs would likely be the employers of the majority of players at the 2026 World Cup.

With players involved in European competition at the club ranks already regularly playing an exorbitant number of matches, clubs around the continent are understandably reticent to expand the current World Cup format to include more games.

This one's clearly far from settled, and it could end up pitting FIFA against Europe's biggest names.

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