FIFA voted to enlarge the World Cup to 48 groups in 2026
This was a triumph win on Tuesday (Jan 10) for its new president Gianni Infantino. However, it was derided by critics as a push motivated by politics and more money.
In a profoundly divisive move that will enrich scandal-tainted FIFA’s coffers, its council unanimously embraced the enlarged format with the addition of 16 teams from three countries that can bring “gains without negatives,” stated Infantino. Infantio took over FIFA 11 months ago from scandel hit Sepp Blatter, vowing to fix the harm done during Blatter’s tenure.”We must shape the World Cup of the Twenty-First Century … football is more than Europe and South America,” the FIFA president, who pressed hard for the change, stated following the vote, “Many more countries are going to have the chance to dream.”
It signifies the first major alteration since the 1998 tournament in France from when the tournament increased from 24 to the current 32 teams. Several critics firmly oppose the change and have labeled it a “money grab and power grab” by New FIFA Now, a advocacy group pushing for for reform of FIFA. Enlarging the World Cup is the hallmark of the vision Infantino is pushing, but opponents say a larger tournament will dilute quality players, especially in many of the wealthy European leagues.
Football’s influential European Club Association reiterated its strong resistance to the change considering the current World Cup design as “an ideal formula”. “We understand that this decision has been taken based on political reasons rather than sporting ones and under considerable political pressure, something ECA believes is regrettable,” the body which represents Europe’s top clubs.
European governing body UEFA offered a tepid recognition, saying it determined to back the strategy once “it was apparent that other confederations were overwhelmingly in favor”.
The enlarged format will inlcude 80 matches – 16 more the current format. These will be played over 32 days hence the complaints from many critics that players will burn out more. Two teams from every group will progress to a 32-country knockout round. A confidential FIFA report viewed by AFP estimates a 48-staff tournament will deliver a funds increase of US$640 million (€605 million) an increase above the projected sales for next year’s finals in Russia.
Asia and Africa could function as big winners with the addition of new teams. Africa currently has 5 teams and Asia with 4 to 5 teams. New estimates show Europe could come out with 3 new teams and Africa gaining 9 teams. Infantino did not state how the selection process will be made for allocating new teams, but ensured all areas “will get more” spots.
Protecting Infantino, CONCACAF leader Victor Montagliani stated there was unanimous support for the change and discussion centered on “facts and the figures, not on a wink and nod”. “Perhaps the time has come where wed don’t do things on winks and nods anymore,” added leader of North and Central America’s governing body, in an obvious jibe at the disgraced Blatter and the corruption that threatened FIFA.
Tuesday’s decision is the most recent overhaul of the World Cup, which has found its popularity grow world wide since its inaugural in 1930. That competition had only 13 states at the time and was won by Uruguay. The World Cup enlarged to 24 teams in 1982 before moving to its present 32 team format in 1998.