Large-scale changes are coming for the 2026 World Cup.
FIFA today confirms that the 2026 World Cup will be the longest and largest in history.
The world leaders, led by President Gianni Infantino, have agreed on a final structure to be approved at a meeting of the organization’s ruling council in Kigali, Rwanda. Sun reported.
This will mean the tournament will expand from 64 games in Qatar to 104 games split between venues in Canada, Mexico and the US.
And if Qatar 2022 was played for 29 days to squeeze it into the smallest possible window, then the next World Cup will be played over 39 days, which is a fraction of five and a half weeks.
This will not please clubs supplying players, although FIFA will reduce the preparation period to a maximum of 17 days, instead of 24 days, as indicated for the last summer World Cup in Russia in 2018.
Instead of the heavily criticized original plan of 16 groups of three teams that left many pundits wary of potential collusion in the final set of games, FIFA will stick to four team groups.
This means that the top two teams in each of the 12 starting groups will advance to the playoffs along with the top eight third-placed teams.
The playoff stage will start from the 1/8 finals.
For the first time in world championship history, winners will have to play EIGHT games to lift the trophy.
The decision to expand the competition to 48 teams first sparked controversy when it was made in 2017.
FIFA has since considered various options before reverting to 12 groups of four.
Ideas that were considered and then rejected included a penalty shoot-out at the end of the draw group games and a “winner” bonus for the group-leading team that stays in the same city in the first knockout match.
But the drama of the final group games in Qatar, including an incredible night where, at certain points in the game, all four from Spain, Japan, Germany and Costa Rica passed and returned home, made Infantino add his weight to the new format.
This story was originally published Sun and reproduced with permission
Originally published as Big changes coming at the World Cup