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FIFA will regret World Cup expansion

FIFA President Gianni Infantino and the FIFA Council unanimously voted to expand the World Cup to 48 teams starting in 2026.

FIFA went away from the classic idea of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

The FIFA Council unanimously voted to approve the expansion of the World Cup from 32 teams to 48 teams beginning in 2026. The 48 team proposal was one of four proposals to expand the tournament. The other option was to stick with the current 32 team format. This is the first time since 1998 that the World Cup has changed its format. Starting in 2026 the World Cup will drop it’s eight groups of four followed by a 16-team knockout stage and will go to 16 groups of three with a 32-team knockout stage.

There were options to have a 40-team tournament with 10 groups of four or eight groups of five. The 48-team option was the only one with an expanded knockout stage.

FIFA has not yet released how many extra placed each federation will get. Africa and Asia after both expected to get increased on their four allocated sports. Oceania would be expected to have a guaranteed spot in the tournament. UEFA has long been desiring 16 spots in the tournament.

But while an expansion to 48 teams would both allowed more of the world to experience the World Cup and there are forecasts of a $1 billion in extra income from broadcasting and sponsor deal, and increased ticket sales, the expansion to 48 teams makes little sense for the World Cup.

By increasing the number of participants in the World Cup there is going to be less variety as an off year still makes it unlikely a powerhouse country would miss out. It also makes the qualification process much less meaningful. For the tournament itself, there is much less intrigue after the first round of the group stage as one loss likely ends a team’s hope.

There will be an increase from 64 games to 80 games inside the 32-day schedule the World Cup has. The group stage will have three games instead of six with the top two teams moving on to the knockout stage. With an uneven number of teams in the group, one team will not play on a given day of group stage games, leading to extra rest. It also leads to goal differential being even more of a determining factor when it comes to tie-breakers for the second spot.

The European Club Association admitted that they were not in favor of the expansion and called their vote for it “regrettable” but said it was made for “political reasons.”

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Corey Johns

Editor in Chief
You could say Corey was born to become a sports journalist. His father won a national championship coaching college soccer. His mother is a baseball fanatic who hasn't missed seeing an Orioles game since 1983 (literally, sometimes it's annoying). His great uncle was a big-time boxing promoter and his maternal grandfather was once a department head at the Baltimore Sun. Basically, sports and journalism run through his blood. He played just about every little league sports there was when he was a kid and was a multi-sport athlete in high school; even playing in the first-ever high school sanction Rugby game in the country. Eventually he retired from sports as an undefeated Maryland state Rugby champion as a high school senior. Perhaps lack of athletic talent has more to do with the retirement, but he will tell you that it more had to do with a great desire to jump right into media. Upon his graduation from University of Maryland, Baltimore County as a triple communications major, Corey started the So Much Sports network and has continued to grow his websites and continues to work to make them premier sports media outlets.

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