New year and a new blog entry! Its 2017 and surprises were surely expected but I want to dedicate this lines write down my thoughts about FIFA and their recent changes. The most respected organization in the Footballing world has been going trough some much needed restructuring measures after the corruption scandal a few years ago. The presidential appointment of Gianni Infantino as the new President of the organization saw innovation ahead of the sport with addition of replays during games being the most significant one. However, the change that caused controversy so far was the announcement of the expansion of 48 teams for the 2026 World Cup changing the current format of 32 teams. Will it be a success? Personally I say NO but I have a few arguments to support this.
2026 WORLD CUP FORMAT
- 48 teams (16 groups of 3 teams each)
- Group stage were each team plays twice and the top 2 advance to the knockout rounds
- Extra time and penalty shootout only allowed in the final and semi final
- Tournament will last 32 days with a total of 80 matches played
- Since 1930 the tournament went from 13 to 48 teams by 2026
UNNECESARY QUALIFYING GAMES – The current format allows 32 of the best national teams access to the tournament. Why the unnecessary qualifying games? Well as you may see below the most affected confederations with the addition of the 48 teams would be CONCACAF and CONMEBOL due to the system that each uses. In the end there wont be a need for qualifying games because the majority of the teams that make it to the last stages in CONCACAF would have a place in the tournament. CONMEBOL would be even worst since 10 teams participate and 6 of them would qualify. This is only the first downside of course.
- CONMEBOL – 4 TEAMS (5TH PLACE PLAYS A PLAYOFF)
- UEFA – 13 TEAMS (9 GROUP WINNERS +4 PLAYOFF WINNERS)
- CONCAFAF- 3 TEAMS (4TH PLACE PLAYS A PLAYOFF)
- AFRICA- 5 TEAMS (GROUP WINNERS)
WEAKER NATIONAL TEAMS- The main purpose of the qualifiers is to bring the best of the best to the world tournament. The expansion would allow low-level teams to enter the tournament creating an uneven competition. This would make the games predictable and the tournament will lose relevance. It’s true that 2026 is still a long way out but we have to keep in mind that some of these weaker national teams don’t have a structure of development for professional players and wont be ready for 2026. We don’t have to go far, Iceland plays with 23 amateur players with part time jobs.
WORLD CUP LOSES RELEVANCE- For some people the format of 32 teams that we have now makes the tournament long and boring. The current world cup takes place over a period of a month and a half usually during June every four years. The new system will make this a two-month tournament with TOO MANY GAMES in a short period of time. This of course will directly affect the players and their level of performance each game. Making the tournament longer will cause people to lose interest in the event and who wouldn’t? Just thinking about it is a headache, 48 teams and ONE champion, yea no thanks.
FIFA AND SPONSORS THE ONLY WINNERS – Yea I said it! They’re the only ones winning with all of this. They don’t care if people don’t watch the tournament as long as they manage to get more sponsors to back them (FIFA) and their usual sponsors. They have said the expansion is mainly thinking about the inclusion of more teams but this is of course a LIE. The 2026 World cup is nothing more than a matter of money and nothing else.
I really thought that the hosting nations of Russia and QATAR would be the issues that FIFA would focus on. After all it was more than clear that they bought the rights to the world cups via corruption, instead they chose to expand the World Cup structure. Is this the end of football as a sport and the beginning of a new business model? I hope that its not the case but China (SUPER LEAGUE) might prove me wrong but that’s a topic for another day.