The World Cup is one of the biggest sporting events in the world and while it only takes place every four years, the qualifiers and other tournaments keep fans entertained while we wait. The World Cup hasn’t changed much since 1998 but in less than ten years, fans will get to watch a much bigger World Cup. Just a few days ago, FIFA approved a World Cup expansion that will add 16 teams to the tournament. This means that the teams that have been close to making it to the tournament in the past will have a bigger chance soon. The FIFA World Cup will keep the same format for the next two editions but the changes in 2026 will make it the biggest World Cup ever. Here is everything to know about the FIFA World Cup expansion:
World Cup Expansion Approved
The recent World Cups have featured the best 32 teams but the tournament will soon have 16 more teams playing. The expansion, approved just a few days ago, will allow more teams to qualify for the tournament. FIFA has not decided how many slots each region will get with the expansion but this will definitely give a better chance to teams looking to qualify for the first time or after many years of being close.
The World Cup expansion had been mentioned by FIFA President Gianni Infantino but the decision was made five days ago. During the vote by FIFA, there were four other options, including keeping the tournament with the same number of teams. Since 1998, the World Cup has featured 32 teams and while that may seem like a good number of teams for fans, not all those in the sport are happy with the decision.
FIFA is now giving more teams the opportunity to qualify with this expansion. Back in 1930, when the first World Cup took place, there were just a few teams and no qualifiers. The hosts invited the teams to the tournament and only a few matches were played to determine the winner. A lot has changed in 87 years and while the recent decision has been criticized by some, we now know that the tournament will be a lot bigger starting in 2026.
The New Format For 2026
The approved World Cup expansion will not change the number of teams for the 2018 or 2022 World Cups. The changes will actually begin for the 2026 World Cup, which currently doesn’t have a host as it is still nine years away. The expansion means more teams but not a tournament that will last two or three more weeks. The tournament will actually be completed around the same time as previous World Cups.
The new format will have 16 groups of three and the two best teams from each group will qualify for the next round. A total of 32 teams will qualify for the next round, meaning teams will have a good chance of making past the group stage. The expansion adds 16 more games to the World Cup schedule. Since 1998, the group stage has featured four teams in each group. The best two teams from each group advance just like the new format but the only difference is that two teams were eliminated. That will continue for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
The 2026 World Cup doesn’t have a host yet but the changes could make it very interesting for teams that have been very close to qualifying in the past. Talks for the extra 16 slots will reportedly begin next month.
The World Cup expansion has been criticized by some even before it was approved on Tuesday. The European Club Association released a statement saying they do not agree with the decision to expand the World Cup. They also said the decision has been made for political rather than sporting reasons. It was also reported after the decision that La Liga were planning to take legal action to stop the expansion from happening.
The decision has also received support, including from Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, who said that he was totally in favor for a World Cup expansion. New Zealand Football chief executive Andy Martin claims an expanded World Cup could have benefits for soccer in the country.
FIFA has approved the expansion but there are still a few details that have not been announced, including the extra slots for each region. What do you think about the World Cup expansion? Let us know in the comments.