New FIFA President Gianni Infantino had campaigned to change the format of the World Cup to 40 teams initially. Today the vote was taken to change the format of the World Cup from 32 teams and expand it to 48 teams. This would take place starting with the 2026 tournament that is rumored to be held in North America.
While some federations and leagues were against the larger format there were plenty that were for it as that means a number of smaller nations from Asia, Africa and the Americas will now have a chance of qualifying for the World Cup. Does this dilute the qualification process? Probably but we will see how FIFA handles that.
Infantino and FIFA PR have been marketing this as a way to grow the game of football and that may be true to an extent. However, this is also a way to grow the bottom line with some expecting revenues for the tournaments to grow by $1 billion. With more teams there will be more games which provides an opportunity for more ticket sales, more sponsorship deals, and of course higher broadcast fees.
There will now be 80 matches during the tournament instead of the 64 we see in the present day format, however, the winner will still only play 7 matches total. The new tournament will consist of 16 groups of 3 teams and each team will play a minimum of 2 games. The top two teams from each group will make it out of the group to the knockout Round of 32.
I'm sure we will be seeing lots of discussion about this new format over the next few weeks and months. We won't find out if this change is for the better for some time but it could have impacts on leagues and player fitness that FIFA have yet to address.
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