Infantino: In 2026, the FIFA World Cup is expanding its participation from 32 teams to 48 teams

FIFA President Gianni Infantino (File | AP)

FIFA President Gianni Infantino confirmed on Friday that the organization will reconsider the format for the 2026 World Cup, which will be held in the USA, Canada and Mexico.

The 2026 tournament will see the number of teams expanded from 32 to 48, and it had originally been announced that these 48 teams would be divided into 16 groups of three, with the top two sides progressing to a straight knockout stage with 32 teams.

However, this format has two clear problems: the first is that teams are only assured of playing two matches, as opposed to three under the current system.

The second problem is that the last game in every group would be played between two teams that both know the result they need in order to reach the knockout stage, potentially opening the door for collusion to ensure a mutually beneficial result.

Worries about this system had reportedly led to discussion of the proposed format, and Infantino confirmed that in his Friday press conference.

"I have to say after this World Cup, and the success of the groups of four, we have to revisit or rediscuss the format whether we go for 16 groups of three or 12 groups of four," he said.

"We are convinced that football will be booming in North America. We will start working immediately for that World Cup. We are really convinced of the growth," added Infantino.

A system with four groups of 12 teams would also present problems. Although it should rule out chances of collusion between teams in the last group games, there would be eight groups where three teams would qualify for the knockout stages, meaning several potentially meaningless final group games. ■

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