FIFA is set to introduce a sweeping change for the 2026 World Cup, set to be held in the USA, Mexico, and Canada, as reported by the New York Times on Tuesday. The changes will be formally announced after the scheduled meeting of FIFA and the organizers.
As per the current format that was first introduced in the 1998 World Cup, a total of 32 teams used to be pooled across eight teams, and the top two teams from each group will advance to the knockout rounds. Rumors had that FIFA was planning to scrap this format and introduce a three-team group, but the resounding success of the World Cup in Qatar forced them to reconsider this decision.
Moreover, a three-team group will also mean that half of the countries will be on their way back home after playing just two matches. As per the proposed change, which is likely to be accepted at the latest by this week, the tournament will now have 48 games, and there will be as many as 104 games. It will be a 40-day-long affair, a stark contrast to the last year’s World Cup, which was also the shortest in recent history. Because of the sultry climate of the UAE, the board had to cramp too many games in a very short span of time.
Objections will be raised from the powerful clubs and the player unions about this prolongation of the tournament. Elite clubs have always been skeptical about sending their players for international duty. Moreover, this will also increase the workload on the players.
FIFA had a long-standing tradition of rewarding the hosts with direct entry to the tournament. However, there was doubt about this happening for the 2026 World Cup, which will be jointly hosted by three countries. But the organization had already confirmed that the USA, Mexico, and Canada will earn automatic qualification.
In Qatar, the USA and Mexico qualified through the regional qualifiers, while Canada was added in as a replacement for Russia, who was debarred from competition because of their attack on Belarus.
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