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In a bid to increase the fervor, revenue heights and global reach, FIFA announced 48 teams world cup in 2026. FIFA President Gianni Infantino announced this news after unanimous voting from governing body meeting in Zurich on 10th January 2017. New format will have 16 Groups of 3 teams each with knockout round of 32 teams up next.
History repeats itself:
Tournament format had been in constant change since its inception in 1930. 1st World Cup was played between 13 teams in Uruguay. Then in 1934, World Cup in Italy had 16 participating teams. That format remained same until 1982 World Cup in Spain, when expansion of the format reached to 24 teams in the final round. The current format of 32 teams was first played in 1998 and since then on it has been kept unchanged until now. Critics had expressed their opinions about the FIFA decision of expansion. Some people support the idea saying that smaller countries would get new boost for their qualification campaigns in future. Also it will provide smaller nations a chance to shine within the tournament like we witnessed how ICELAND, WALES, COLOMBIA and COSTA RICA in recent Tournaments of FIFA and UEFA. Some people thought that bringing in too many teams could temper with the quality of the game in general. Especially, ECA (European Club Association) has been against the decision terming that Decision is more on a political ground than a sporting one. Also, the hectic match schedule will increase the burden on players.
Statistical game of FIFA:
Statistically, FIFA decision has been supported with no. of matches for each team will remain the same with 7 matches each. Tournament will last same 32 days as before. Total number of football matches have been extended to 80 from previous 64. Financially, market profit will increase approximately 20 percent from $5.5billion to $6.5billion which is quite an improvement.
The thing which makes FIFA World cup unique in all those preceding years has been its quality of matches. This again brings in interesting debate between FIFA and its antithetical critics. Opposing criticism mostly predicted a fall in the quality of the game trends as quantity of teams enlarge.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino defended the decision by saying that this argument is wrong as quantity of teams makes them fight them harder for the Golden trophy title. As a result, a more refined World champion arises. Time will settle the debate once changes will commence in 2026. Till then, all countries have time to revamp and strengthen their respective football structure to better compete the World Cup levels. A beautiful game football has always been the subject of news and this time FIFA’s decision of expansion has bring it to the limelight of World Press.