Expanding the FIFA World Cup to 48 teams would be terrible for the world’s most watched sports tournament.
Nick Hilton, of spectator.co.uk, and Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated, think there will be a huge imbalance in quality of play and soccer fans should be worried because of the number of inferior teams that will be in the tournament.
Groups of 3 teams, penalty shootouts in the group stage and a lot of uncompetitive teams is what will be coming to the World Cup in 2026.
This will make the tournament boring and complicated.
In January 2017, FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s bid to have a 48-team World Cup was approved, which means the tournament will have 16 new teams. FIFA has a tough decision on how to share these 16 spots between 6 continents.
Europe is the top continent in the world and has 13 countries going to the World Cup, with that number expected to be 16 or 17 by 2026, which will cause controversy from other continents.
Having groups of 3 teams in a soccer tournament is unheard of and as a result, will be very difficult to schedule.
In Euro 2016, the tournament was expanded to 24 teams and teams went into games to tie, not to win.
More than half of the teams in the tournament advanced to the knockout stages because of the best third rule, which saw Portugal win the tournament without even winning a game in the group stage.
The same problem will be coming to the World Cup now as the top 2 out of 3 teams from 16 groups will advance, which means 32 out of 48 teams will advance to the knockout stage.
That number of teams advancing to the knockout round is another fault in the new system: an extra knockout round.
The World Cup has had 32 teams in the groups and goes to a round of 16. With this new format, the first knockout round will have as many teams as the current tournament has from the start.
The expansion also means lots of bad teams will qualify for the knockout rounds. This is just to add more games to the tournament for money, not to better the level of play according to FIFA researchers.
This is happening for financial reasons. According to FIFA researchers, FIFA will make 20 per cent more in revenue adding up to $6.5 billion during the 2026 World Cup. The upcoming 2018 World Cup is projected to make $5.56 billion.
What’s more, there is also talk of adding penalty shootouts to the group stage.
There are lots of questions over how it would work and how teams would be given points in this process. Shootouts are a knockout round thing, adding them to the group stage is a strange idea.
When thinking about the expanded tournament and how many good teams will be in the World Cup, it is thought there will be a good tournament.
But if Europe has 16-17 slots for the tournament and 27 of the top 47 nations in the world are from Europe, it means 10 of the best 47 nations in the world won’t be attending the tournament.
South America have the best level of qualifying for the World Cup, it is the most competitive in the world, just look at the recent qualifying process.
But with the expansion in teams, 7 out of 10 nations from South America would be going to the tournament.
This would mean the level of play and competitiveness will drop. Many teams will rest star players late in qualifying which is bad for attendances.
FIFA should not expand to the current format. From 24 teams to 32 teams and now to 48 teams, every few decades FIFA adds more and more teams and sooner or later the world’s most entertaining and most watched sports event will be ruined.