Arsene Wenger, the head of world football for FIFA, has stated that the format for the FIFA World Cup that will take place in 2026 has not yet been decided. The United States, Mexico, and Canada are hosting the tournament, and there is speculation about whether it will be a traditional 32-team event or feature group stages followed by a knockout round.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup was a tournament that will be remembered for its dramatic group stage. All four teams in Group played simultaneously, and anyone could have gone through to the next round.
However, while this excitement was great for game fans, FIFA recognized that changes needed to be made to keep the interest level high heading into future tournaments. As such, they have announced that from 2026 onwards, the World Cup will be expanded from 32 teams to 48.
This will surely provide even more drama and suspense as countries compete for qualification and a place in history.
The decision to increase the size of the World Cup from 32 teams to 48 was met with mixed reactions back in 2017. While some praised FIFA for widening the scope of one of the world’s most popular sporting events, others felt that doing so would only lead to bigger and more complicated tournaments and a dilution in quality.
However, this would set up the possibility of a win for both teams in the final group matchup at the expense of the team that isn’t playing, prompting a rethink.
There have been suggestions that FIFA institute penalty shootouts following all tied games in the tournament’s first round. However, this would not prevent teams from playing to a score that would benefit them.
Wenger announced on Sunday at a press conference for the FIFA technical research committee that three potential solutions were being considered. An alternate proposal calls for 12 groups of four teams, with the top two teams from each Group advancing alongside the best third-placed teams.
The World Cup might also be divided into two halves of 24 teams each, with each half comprising six groups of four. The final would pit the winners from the two groups against one another.
“This is not decided,” Wenger said. “but it will be 16 groups of three, 12 groups of four, or two sides of six groups of four – like you organise two 24 teams.
“I will not be able to decide that, it will be decided by the FIFA, and I think it will be done in the next year.”