The African Cup of Nations will move from January to June from its next staging in Cameroon in 2019 and be expanded from 16 to 24 team.
The change of timing will be welcomed by European clubs, many of whom have lost players at vital periods of the season because of the time slot.
The changes were approved at a meeting of the Confederation of African Football in Rabat which adopted recommendations made at a symposium in Morocco earlier in the week.
Other decisions included the awarding of the 2021 and 2023 Africa Cup of Nations to Ivory Coast and Guinea respectively.
Major changes have also been made to Africa’s Champions League and Confederation Cup tournaments, which will now run from August to May, like Europe’s Champions League, rather than over the course of a calendar year.
The expansion of the Cup of Nations puts pressure on the 2019 hosts, Cameroon, who have denied claims they are behind in their preparations. “I would like to reassure national and international opinion that the government is fully committed to fulfilling the Caf’s specifications and, to date, no Caf mission has reported any delay in preparations,” said the Cameroon sports minister, Ismael Bidoung.
African football chiefs are due to inspect Cameroon’s preparations in September, with Morocco on standby if a backup host is needed.
“Morocco will not hesitate for a second to respond favourably to any invitation to host this Nations Cup,” said their football association president, Faouzi Lekjaa.