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FIFA considers expanding World Cup from 32 teams to 40

FIFA is discussing a proposal to expand the World Cup from 32 to 40 teams as part of a package of reforms, according to FIFA sources.

The proposal was being discussed on Thursday at FIFA's executive committee as part of a package of reforms for the world governing body and is expected to receive widespread support, according to FIFA sources.

If given the green light, the measure could improve Northern Ireland's chances of qualification.

Although given the teams recent heroics, they may not need the added incentive.

Read more: Majority in Northern Ireland want all-Ireland football team, survey suggests

It comes after two senior FIFA officials - reported to be FIFA vice-presidents Alfredo Hawit of Honduras and Juan Angel Napout of Paraguay - were arrested by Swiss authorities in another swoop at the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich.

The move would be a huge change - currently there are 32 teams in the finals - and could mean another 32 matches in the group stage adding another week to the tournament, which is currently 31 days in length, and taking the total number of matches to 96. The change would come into force for the 2026 tournament.

The most likely way of accommodating the eight extra teams would be having eight groups of five teams, with the top two qualifying for the last 16 knock-out round. Under that system, it would mean an extra four matches in each group totalling 32 in all.

The proposal is being seen as a sweetener to persuade members to vote through a package of reforms including 12-year term limits for FIFA ExCo members and the president and making public senior officials' salaries.

It will also take the pressure off Europe whose 13 places have been the source of envy from other continents.

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