FIFA agrees to expand World Cup to 48 teams

ZURICH (Reuters) – Soccer’s governing body, FIFA, voted on Tuesday to expand the World Cup to 48 teams from its current 32, brushing aside concerns that the expansion would lower the overall standard of the tournament and make it too big and unwieldy.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino, fulfilling a promise he made during last year’s election campaign, said the move meant that “more can participate and many more will have a chance to dream”.

FIFA’s 211 member associations each hold one vote in the presidential election, and 135 of them have never played at a World Cup, so expansion of the tournament was always likely to appeal.

The new format, to be introduced in 2026, will feature a first round of 16 groups of three teams, with the top two in each qualifying for a round of 32. From then on, it would be a straightforward knockout contest.

The hosts of the 2026 tournament will be decided in May 2020. The CONCACAF Confederation, representing North and Central America and the Caribbean, is seen as a strong contender, possibly providing a joint bid from at least two of the United States, Canada and Mexico.

The new-look tournament will increase the number of matches from 64 to 80, but Infantino said it would require the same number of match days and stadiums as now:

“This format can be played in exactly the same number of days as today, 32, and the winning team will play the same number of games, seven, as today, and in the same number of stadiums, 12, as today,” he said.

Critics have said that FIFA is tampering with a winning formula; the last World Cup in Brazil was widely regarded as one of the best in the competition’s 87-year-old history, featuring shock results, last-minute drama and outstanding individual performances.

NEGATIVE FORMAT?

One of the concerns is that the new format will make the group stage merely a matter of avoiding elimination, and so encourage negative play.

Infantino said it had not yet been decided whether penalty shootouts could be used to decide drawn group-stage matches.

The qualifying competition, meanwhile, is likely to become a mere formality for many of the strongest teams.

The number of extra slots for each continental confederation, as well as formats for the qualifying competitions, will be decided at a later date, Infantino said.

He had initially suggested a 40-team tournament, but then added another eight to that total in October.

Those who have never qualified include 41 out of FIFA’s 54 of its African members and 10 out of 11 members in the Oceania region.

The ECA, the association that represents more than 200 European clubs, most of which dislike releasing their players for international duty, said the decision had been taken for “political reasons rather than sporting ones” and “under considerable political pressure”.

“We fail to see the merits to changing the current format of 32 that has proven to be the perfect formula from all perspectives,” it said in a statement.

Reinhard Grindel, head of the German federation (DFB), said he saw a danger that “in the future we will see more defensive-minded teams”.

“If the World Cup stops being as attractive, then fan and sponsor support suffers, as does its marketing.”

The pressure group New FIFA Now, which has campaigned for reform of FIFA, said the move “will make a mockery of the qualification process for most confederations”.

The inaugural World Cup, staged in 1930 in Uruguay, featured just 13 teams and 17 matches. Sixteen teams took part from 1934, eight more were added from 1982 onwards and, finally, another eight in 1998.

 

Related Posts
SA football in the hands of Khama Billiat ahead of epic CAF Champions League final
Johannesburg - The closest Khama Billiat came to royalty as a child was feeling like a king. But in a matter of three hours, in a two-legged CAF Champions League final ...
READ MORE
Arsenal CEO Gazidis backs Wenger
Arsene Wenger is the right manager to lead Arsenal forward, the club's chief executive Ivan Gazidis has said, despite doubts over the Frenchman's contract at the Premier League club. Wenger, 66, ...
READ MORE
Toure sparks City win on return
MANCHESTER, UK - Yaya Toure scored twice on his return to action as Manchester City beat Crystal Palace 2-1 at Selhurst Park on Saturday. Toure made his first Premier League start ...
READ MORE
Cricket coach Mangongo axed
HARARE - The Zimbabwe senior national cricket team coach Stephen Mangongo has been axed by the sport’s mother body just days after returning from a disastrous tour of Bangladesh. Mangongo (pictured) ...
READ MORE
Sad day for football: Sexwale
World football's two most powerful men have been banned from all football related activities for eight years. Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) president, Michel Platini's hopes of replacing Fédération Internationale ...
READ MORE
Barca hit by injuries, first signs of fan anger
BARCELONA (Reuters) - Barcelona coach Luis Enrique woke up on Wednesday confronted with the twin problems of a lengthening injury list and the first signs of discontent this season among ...
READ MORE
PSG suffer shock defeat at Monaco
PARIS (Reuters) - Champions Paris St Germain suffered a shock 3-1 defeat at Monaco on Sunday, suggesting they may find it harder to retain their Ligue 1 crown after last ...
READ MORE
Manchester United 3-2 Arsenal: Rashford scores twice on league debut
MANCHESTER, UK - Marcus Rashford scored twice on his Premier League debut to help Manchester United to a 3-2 win over Arsenal at Old Trafford. The 18-year-old striker, who had hit ...
READ MORE
Arsenal title hopes hammered, Villa all but down
LONDON (Reuters) - Arsenal's title hopes were virtually extinguished in a 3-3 draw at West Ham United and Aston Villa's top-flight status is merely mathematical after an eighth successive defeat ...
READ MORE
Marcus Rashford signs new Manchester United contract
MANCHESTER - Marcus Rashford has signed a new four-year contract at Manchester United with the option of a further year. Rashford's team-mate Cameron Borthwick-Jackson has also extended his deal until 2020. It ...
READ MORE
SA football in the hands of Khama Billiat
Arsenal CEO Gazidis backs Wenger
Toure sparks City win on return
Cricket coach Mangongo axed
Sad day for football: Sexwale
Barca hit by injuries, first signs of fan
PSG suffer shock defeat at Monaco
Manchester United 3-2 Arsenal: Rashford scores twice on
Arsenal title hopes hammered, Villa all but down
Marcus Rashford signs new Manchester United contract

Arts & Entertainment

Arts & Entertainment

Recovering from memory loss, Kanye West focuses on fashion comeback

14th February 2017 Staff Reporter 0

NEW YORK – Two months after being hospitalized for exhaustion and still recovering from memory loss, Kanye West is expected to make his first major public appearance at New York Fashion Week, his producer revealed. West, […]