In the 2026 World Cup to be held in the United States, Canada and Mexico, 48 teams will compete for the first time, instead of the previous 32. The plan is for the top two out of 16 groups of three to advance to the knockout rounds. This may refer to, for example, the last group game between two teams that have already won and thus qualified for the knockout stages.
FIFA admitted earlier this year that it was aware of the danger of implicit or explicit collusion between qualifying teams. “That question has been raised,” said FIFA vice-president Victor Montagliani. Alternative formats are on the table, with the FIFA Council having to decide next year.
Two versions, more games in each case
According to FIFA’s head of global football development, Arsene Wenger, there are two versions: there could be twelve groups of four teams, with the promoted teams being the top two and the eight best third-placed teams in each pool. The other possibility would be two preliminary rounds with each of the 24 teams fighting to progress into six groups of four. The winners of both the halves will face each other in the final.
But this will lead to a significant increase in the number of games. World Cup in Qatar comes in 64 games in 29 days, as per current status it will be 80 games in 32 days in 2026.
With groups of four the number would rise to 104, then an additional week would be necessary. In doing so, FIFA risks losing the excitement that characterized the World Cup in Qatar and turning the tournament into a drawn-out affair that is not conducive to entertainment.
additional income from tv rights
At the same time, however, TV rights bring in additional income. Given that they account for 90 percent of FIFA’s revenue, it is an attractive prospect for the world governing body.
The Qatar World Cup brought FIFA revenue of USD 7.5 billion (EUR 7.11 billion) from rights and sponsorship deals – USD 1 billion (EUR 0.95 billion) more than the 2018 World Cup in Russia, FIFA announced in November.
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