FIFA will approve a further expansion of the 2026 World Cup in North America on Tuesday, adding 24 more games to what is set to be the longest tournament in the event’s history.
Under the proposed changes, the 48 teams would play 104 games over 40 days in the United States, Canada and Mexico, with the champion and runner-up each playing eight games instead of the current seven. Soccer’s global governing body and World Cup organizer FIFA’s Governing Council is expected to make the expansion official at a meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, citing unnamed people familiar with the discussions.
FIFA had already planned to expand from the 32-team format that had been used since 1998. Preliminary talks called for an expanded 48-team field to be split into 16 groups of three — a format that calls for 64 to 80 total games. in the current format – but FIFA revised it, choosing to go with 12 groups of four teams and a total of 104 games. Officials are concerned about the potential manipulation of three-team groups and the fact that teams can be eliminated after only two games.
Gianni Infantino, who will preside over the first edition of the men’s World Cup since becoming FIFA president in 2016, met with the heads of the six sports confederations on Monday night and did not object to the proposed plan. . The plan is expected to be formally approved after a meeting of FIFA’s 36-member governing body on Tuesday.
Further expansion will not be without controversy, as it means the tournament could last 40 days, compared to the 28 days of the Qatar competition. It adds to an already grueling schedule for the game’s top stars. The sport’s smaller nations have welcomed the expansion, hoping to replicate Morocco’s defeat at last year’s World Cup. A bigger tournament also means billions in revenue, even though some have argued that the quality of the event will decrease.
Victor Montagliani, the president of the North American confederation Concacaf, recently expressed concern about the crowded soccer calendar. One solution could be a shorter warm-up period, although not as short as Qatar’s seven-day advance, which was shortened because last year’s event was held in the fall during the club season.
“We have to be responsible,” he told the Financial Times Business Football Conference this month. “There was a trail of dates for 2014 and 2018 that we cannot overcome. We cannot hold a three-month World Cup.”