On Tuesday the 10th of January, in a meeting in Zurich, FIFA unanimously voted to expand the tournament from 32 teams to 48. This is the first expansion since 1998, with the change coming in for the 2026 World Cup.The tournament will now have 80 matches, instead of the previous 64 and will run for 32 days.
A major change is that there will now be a first stage – 16 groups with 3 teams in each – preceding the knockout stages, with the eventual winners still only playing 7 games.With information from FIFA research, they are expected to make a 521 million Sterling profit (599 million euro) increasing their revenue to 5.29 billion Sterling (6 billion euro).When asked the reason for the expansion, FIFA President Gianni Infantino responded “Why expand? Football is more than just Europe and South America”
While that is true, I don’t think a World Cup expansion is the way to go about it. The World Cup is the biggest and most prestigious tournament in football and arguably in the sporting world. Just making it to the World Cup is the same as winning it for many countries eg Georgia, Iceland etc.So expanding the tournament would devalue that aspect for those countries.
The 2016 Euros increased the tournament size from 16 to 24 and it saw smaller nations like Iceland do well, and involved more matches. In truth, it also brought the quailty of the matches down, with some of the smaller nations, like Romania and others, adopting defensive tatics against bigger countries like France.This expansion in the World Cup could see the same result with a lot of new smaller nations participating.
As Gianni Infantino said, “Football is more than just Europe and South America”. Instead of expanding the World Cup, FIFA could use its profits to help fund smaller nations’ youth systems, to make football more competive and help improve overall quailty. As China has showed recently, many countries are willing to put money in.Other countries are as willing to put the money in but simply don’t have enough. FIFA could help them out with the extraoridinary money it makes, by funding competitions like the AFC Asian Cup to make them more competitive and getting more recognition, in the way Copa America and the Euros have.