The World Cup will be expanded to host 48 teams adding 16 extra nations to the 2026 tournament, FIFA said.
The plan for 16 three-team groups with the top two advancing to a round of 32 was unanimously approved by the FIFA Council. It was favoured by FIFA President Gianni Infantino.
It meets his election pledge of a bigger World Cup, and should help fund promised raises for FIFA's 211 members.
With 80 matches instead of 64, FIFA forecasts $1 billion extra income from broadcasting and sponsor deals, plus ticket sales, compared to $5.5 billion forecast for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
FIFA's six continents should find out by May how many extra places they will get. UEFA wants 16 European teams in the tournament, which will likely be held in North America.
The European Club Association (ECA) opposed the move and termed it a "political" rather than sporting decision.
“We fail to see the merits to changing the current format of 32 that has proven to be the perfect formula from all perspectivesStatement by European Club Association (ECA)
It also raised questions about the urgency in reaching such an important decision without making proper discussions with stakeholders. "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," said the statment.
Scottish FA chief executive Stewart Regan welcomed the expansion calling it a "positive step", while “New Fifa Now”, a campaign group, opposed the move terming it "a money grab and power grab".
It will dilute the competitiveness of the tournament and, therefore, the enjoyment of fans. “It will not help development of the game or provide improved competitive opportunities for lower-ranked nations. Instead, it will make a mockery of the qualification process for most confederationsStatement by “New Fifa Now”, a campaign group