No more parallel games in USA, Canada, Mexico in 2026

No more parallel games in USA, Canada, Mexico in 2026

by Tobias Wiltschek

MUNICH – What a drama on the last day of the World Cup Group C match in Qatar!

The Mexicans launched an attack against Saudi Arabia in the closing stages, while with only a few kilometers away the Poles feared every attack from Argentina.

Everyone knew. If Argentina or Mexico score in the last few minutes, everything will change. The Mexicans would suddenly be able to celebrate the round of 16, while the Poles would sink into deep sadness.

The fact that in the end only the Saudis scored deep into injury time did not detract from the play. not a bit.

Parallel sports ensure level playing field

It is the emotional scenes that make the last two group games played at the same time so interesting. Furthermore – and this was the real purpose of their introduction – they ensure that a level playing field is maintained for all teams, at least in most cases.

Even if they are ahead of the DFB-Elf game against Spain (from 8pm on Thursday) ran-liveticker) again haunted the gazettes: agreements such as the Great Humiliation of Gijón between Germany and Austria in 1982 were now a thing of the past. Since 1986, the last two group games at each World Cup have always been scheduled at the same time.

It is even more suspicious that this proven method will not be continued. In 2026 the World Cup in the USA, Canada and Mexico will have a round with groups of three for the first time in 44 years.

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Criticism of increase in World Cup participants

A decision that has already drawn much criticism from FIFA bosses and will also cause some headaches in the months to come.

as it goes hand in hand with a further increase in the number of participating World Cups to 48 teams. Former national coach Joachim Löw, City coach Pep Guardiola and later the European Club Association sharply criticized the decision.

Thus the number of games would reach an “unacceptable level” and the quality of the games would suffer, as alleged at the time.

But Gianni Infantino ignored these critical voices at the time. More important to him was convincing several smaller confederations to support his candidacy to replace Sepp Blatter as FIFA president.

This strategy worked. Infantino became FIFA president, the World Cup increased to 48 teams. However, to pacify the European associations as well, it was decided that no team would play more than seven matches in the World Cup.

No parallel games in 2026 World Cup

The preliminary round with groups of four was discarded in favor of 16 groups of three teams. The result was that there were now only three group games left and there could be no parallel games on the final match day.

This mode opens up a wide range of collusion options for the two teams playing the final game. From a tie that is good enough for both to progress, to a perfect score that benefits both. And the rest of the team is doomed to watch.

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The problem was also recognized within FIFA. However, the insight to redo without groups of three was missing.

van basten with a curious idea

Instead, former world-class Dutch striker and current FIFA technical director, Marco van Basten, came up with a very special idea.

In “Sport-Bild” he suggested completely abolishing the draw in the World Cup. Instead, games that are tied after 90 minutes must be decided with a shoot-out—the equivalent of a penalty shoot-out in ice hockey.

The 1988 European champions argued that this would avoid “all three teams being tied and having the same goal difference”.

A result settlement in the final game can only deter this idea to a limited extent.

There are still three and a half years left for the 2026 World Cup. Until then FIFA will have to decide how to get out of the dilemma it has found itself in.

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