Afcon expanded, to 24 teams

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Africa Cup of Nations finals are set to be expanded to 24 teams and moved to dates in June and July but will continue to be held every two years after recommendations on the tournament at a symposium in Morocco on Wednesday.

The recommendations were made after a workshop on the future of the tournament that included much of CAF’s leadership, and the decision is expected to be rubber-stamped.

The timing of Afcon finals has been contentious as it has been played in January, in the middle of the league season in Europe. The majority of Afcon players come from European clubs and increasingly found themselves drawn into a club versus country tug-of-war. But the tournament will not be cut to once every four years as in Europe because its revenue remains a cornerstone of CAF’s income. It also provides much needed competitive matches in the qualifying competition for smaller African associations, whose limited finances means they rely heavily on state support. Such support across Africa is readily given for official competitions as opposed to friendly internationals.

The symposium also recommended much stricter standards on stadia for the finals and said future hosts would have to prove they had the necessary infrastructure, particularly high quality pitches and hotels for teams.

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