In the 2026 World Cup USA, Canada and Mexico, 48 teams will compete for the first time instead of the previous 32. The plan is for the top two groups of 16 to advance to the knockout stages. This may lead to discussions, for example, when the last group matches take place between two teams that have already won and therefore qualified for the knockout round.
FIFA admitted earlier this year that it was aware of the danger of tacit or explicit collusion between qualified teams. “This question has been raised,” said FIFA Vice-President Victor Montagliani. Alternative formats are on the table, and the FIFA Council will have to decide next year.
Two different genres, in each case more games
According to Arsene Wenger, FIFA’s Head of Global Football Development, there are two variants: there can be twelve groups of four teams, with the promoted teams finishing in the top two places in each group and the eight best teams in third place. Another possibility is two preliminary rounds of 24 teams each, vying for advancement in six groups of four. The winners of the two halves will face each other in the final.
But this will lead to a significant increase in the number of games. The Qatar World Cup will take place in 64 matches in 29 days, and according to the current situation, it will be 80 matches in 32 days in 2026.
With groups of four, the number would rise to 104, and an extra week would then be necessary. In doing so, FIFA risks losing the excitement that characterized the World Cup in Qatar and turning the tournament into a long-term affair that is not very conducive to entertainment.
Additional income from television broadcasting rights
However, at the same time, there is additional income from television rights. Given that they account for 90 percent of FIFA’s revenue, this is an attractive prospect for the global governing body.
FIFA announced in November that the Qatar World Cup brought FIFA $7.5 billion (€7.11 billion) in rights and sponsorship deals – an increase of $1 billion (€0.95 billion) over the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
“General writer. Twitter fanatic. Award-winning alcohol practitioner. Pop culture guru.”