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Saturday, June 22, 2024

World Cup Could Grow by 40 Games in 2026

  • FIFA is considering its options for when the World Cup grows to 48 teams.
  • It could opt for 12 groups of four or 16 groups of three.
Jessica Alcheh-USA TODAY Sports

The World Cup is already planning a big expansion in 2026, but organizers reportedly have designs to grow the tournament to an unprecedented size.

The 2026 edition, which will be played across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, will expand from 32 to 48 teams.

  • Organizers had initially planned to break teams into 16 groups of three, with the top two in each group advancing to the knockout stage.
  • However, FIFA is considering a shift to 12 groups of four, in which the top two teams from each and eight third-place teams would advance to a 32-team bracket, according to multiple sources.
  • While 16 groups of three would grow the World Cup from a total of 64 games to 80, the alternate arrangement would extend it to 104.

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Mixed Incentives

The 16-group plan would mean that 16 teams would play only two games instead of three, and could lead to scenarios where opposing teams don’t have much to play for or could be tempted to play for a draw.

It would also make simultaneous final group-stage games impossible.

FIFA has not made any public statements on the matter, and any official changes would likely be decided on next year.

The organization previously sought to double the frequency of the World Cup to every two years before being dissuaded by UEFA, CONCACAF, and other entities.

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