The news many people anticipated are in. FIFA president, Gianni Infantino has revealed that FIFA Council came to a decision to extend the number of teams that will participate in 2026 World Cup from 32 as we know today to 48.
With that, we will see 16 groups of 3 teams, with top 2 qualifying for the next round. Then the competition continues in a 32-team knockout, 16,8,4,2… The good news in this department is that this new format can be played on the same time schedule of 32 days as the previous format of 32 teams. The World Cup will be played in 12 stadium, as it’s played today, with the winning team playing a maximum of 7 games (as today). In that regard, there will not be many changes made, but looking at the whole picture this is a huge step in international football recognition, market and of course its growth.
This is especially exciting news for any sports fan, who will have a chance to see 80 games instead of 64 and of course for countries that hoped to once play in world cup but never got a chance to do so, and with that providing them a possibility to experience the joy of playing in the World Cup. As Infantino said, “many more countries will have a chance to dream”.
There have been many thoughts put in this decision and in my opinion FIFA made the right one. Not only from a personal point of view but giving 16 more teams a chance to play and dream about playing in the World Cup is a nice gesture in general. There are of course some people that are skeptical about that decision, saying it has been made solely due to political reasons and money. It really is a topic worth of a discussion. But one thing is for sure, the decision has been made.
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