The Gianni Infantino-led world football’s governing body has seen its proposal of a 48-team World Cup format – to be divided into 16 groups of 3 teams, unanimously voted for by the FIFA Council at a meeting in Zurich today.
The Italian-Swiss had made the proposal a huge part of his campaign while contesting for the FIFA presidency last year, and it’s now set to be put in place ahead of the 2026 World Cup.
But what advantages and disadvantages are likely to come with this expansion?
The recent World Cups since France 98 has had 32 teams of 8 groups of 4. 2 teams advanced to the round of 16 knockout stages until 2 gets to the final.
The new format is also similar, but it would be 2 teams from each of the 16 groups advancing to a round of 32 knockout stage. With 48 countries contesting for the World Cup, it allows for an additional 16 teams to join in. Meaning more talents from every continent get to be showcased.
Instead of 3 group games, only 2 will be played, meaning less games for some countries. Yet they would have gained more exposure, their fans would be happy to have seen their teams finally make the quadennial event.
A continent like Oceania has had to play the 5th placed South American team after the initial qualifiers, and it hasn’t favoured them. The expansion means at least one automatic qualifying spot is guaranteed for the small continent.
More money for FIFA, more football for Asia, Africa and South America. The flip side is that an expanded World Cup will very likely be a diluted World Cup. The European Championships had this issue last year, and many fear the FIFA World Cup would be next.
There would also be more games played, with the 64 fixtures rising to 96. That likely means the tournament would run for some 6 weeks, as opposed to the initial 4 weeks.
Everyone that matters already gave their approval, Mourinho, Maradona and Puyol to mention a few. DFB president Reinhard Grindel, ECA chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, and English Football Association chief Martin Glenn, have however voiced their disapprovals.
But where do you my friend stand?