Premier League, Players Could Push Back on Expanded World Cup

  • FIFA is considering two radically different formats for the 2026 World Cup.
  • The more revenue-generating option may spur pushback from European leagues.
Field level view of match during 2022 Qatar World Cup
Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports
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FIFA finally got an expanded World Cup. Now it has to deal with the consequences.

Soccer’s global governing body has been working to figure out how to handle a 48-team format when the World Cup expands from 32 teams in 2026.

  • The initial proposal of 16 three-team groups raises the issue that two teams could collude in a group’s final game to ensure both advance to the next round.
  • The situation has led to calls for 12 groups of four teams, which would grow the tournament to 104 games from 64 this year.
  • European teams and leagues are expected to take issue with the idea of a longer, more taxing tournament.

The Premier League and others could be loath to surrender an additional demanding week for many of its players.

FIFA, on the other hand, is seeking to grow its earning potential from tickets, broadcasts, and more from its core revenue-driver. The organization expects to earn $7.5 billion for the four-year cycle that includes the 2022 World Cup — $1 billion above the previous cycle.

Shootout Shakeup?

If FIFA goes ahead with groups of three teams, another change that could be of particular interest is the possibility of eliminating draws in the group stage by deciding every tied game by a penalty shootout. This would reduce the potential for collusion between teams and potentially add to the drama.

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