FIFA Confirms Expanded 2026 World Cup

    FIFA Confirms Expanded 2026 World Cup
    Last updated Mar 15, 2023
    Image credit: Reuters


    • On Tue., ahead of its congress in Kigali, Rwanda, FIFA announced that the 2026 World Cup will have a record 104-game program as the tournament will expand from 32 to 48 teams.[1]
    • The announcement means that the event co-hosted by Canada, Mexico, and the US will have 40 more matches than its latest edition in Qatar last year. Originally, the 2026 World Cup was expected to have 80 matches.[2]
    • The change comes as the world's governing soccer body revisited the planned format for the next World Cup following a tense finish to the group stage in Qatar, splitting the 48 teams into 12 four-team groups instead of 16 three-team groups.[3]
    • While tackling concerns about possible collusion of the three-team groups and ensuring that all the teams will play at least three games, the expansion is controversial as the tournament will run for 40 days, contributing to an already busy schedule for soccer's top stars.[4]
    • The top two teams in each group will advance to the knockout stage, along with the eight best third-place teams, with the road to the final match –which will be played on July 19– being comprised of eight matches rather than the current seven.[5]
    • FIFA last changed the World Cup's format in 1998, expanding it to 32 teams and establishing the four-team group system, in which the top two progress to the knockout stage.[6]


    Narrative A

    Though FIFA has finally recognized the obvious mistake that it would be making to get rid of four-team groups, 104 games in 40 days is just too much in a calendar that has been increasingly congested. Instead of promoting the wellness of the game and players, soccer's governing bodies are focused on exploiting it to maximize their financial and political capital.

    Narrative B

    These changes are indeed disturbing to Europeans as the status quo satisfies their interests, but most FIFA member associations are dependent on the money the governing body remits via development grants. This expansion is not only financially important as the World Cup is by far the main revenue source for FIFA, but it is also an inclusive move that will ensure 16 new countries in the tournament.

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