The next edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) scheduled to hold in 2019, in Cameroon, will have 24 teams on parade instead of the traditional 16 teams.
A report on BBC Sports confirmed that the Confederation of African Football’s executive committee approved the proposal on Thursday at a meeting in the Moroccan capital Rabat.
Africa’s flagship sporting event has featured 16 teams since 1996.
A decision on whether the finals will be moved from January and February to June and July is still awaited.
Before this official announcement, the Nigeria Football Federation President, Amaju Pinnick, had thrown his weight on the expansion drive.
Pinnick on Wednesday in Rabat told the gathering of African football’s decision makers why CAF’s flagship tournament should be expanded.
He said: “This proposal is hinged on sporting, commercial and infrastructural reasons, and we believe that sooner than later, everyone would come to appreciate the position of the proponents of a bigger Africa Cup of Nations.
“George Weah from Liberia became the only African to have been named the World Player of the Year, same year he was voted the African Player of the Year and European Player of the Year. He is from a nation (Liberia) many would consider a minnow in the African game. If we have a bigger AFCON, there will definitely be more talented players coming onto the stage, and we could just discover that the next ‘Weah’ would come from either Djibouti or Botswana.
“For commercial reason, more corporate organizations and stakeholders will be involved and it is certainly a bigger cake for everyone. CAF will be richer and the Member Associations will surely benefit. When UEFA staged the European Championship in 2012, when it was a 16 –team event, they made a profit of $1.5 billion. Last year, when they staged a 24 –team event for the first time, they made $2.1 billion.
“Having a 24 –team AFCON will also compel the development of stadia facilities across the African continent, as CAF will certainly encourage co-hosting, and this will also ginger general infrastructural development in the continent.”
The Super Eagles missed out on the last two editions of the AFCON but they should be able to squeeze through this term with this expansion even though they started the 2019 AFCON qualifiers on a disappointing note.