“The FIFA Council has unanimously decided in favour of expanding the FIFA World Cup™ to a 48-team competition as of the 2026 edition. World football’s supervisory and strategic body held its third meeting at the Home of FIFA in Zurich on 9 and 10 January, and decided on a new tournament format with the 48 national teams split into 16 groups of three. The top two teams from each group will then advance to a 32-team knockout stage……”
Read the full article on FIFA’s web site: FIFA expands World Cup
There have been many articles about the pros and cons of this already, and everyone will need to decide for themselves. Here are some of the views:
- more nations qualify and hence more global engagement in the sport
- more games on TV for the TV soccer addicts
- more revenue for FIFA (+20%) leading to more money available for development
- more exposure for good players from countries that typically don’t qualify
- more Cinderella story potential
- watering down the competition and devaluing the qualification process
- less meaningful games in the first round, less chance of two top ranked teams meeting in the group stage. With 16 groups the top 16 teams will not meet in group stage, therefore no group of death.
- Only two games per team in the group stage takes away the “tournament” flavour.
- Two out of three teams in a group qualifying is 67%, two out of four was 50%. This makes the drama of elimination, especially for top teams, less meaningful.
Like all change, it will take time to adapt to it but eventually, it will become the “new normal”. We have 10 years to get ready!!!!!