-- The FIFA World Cup is Officially Changing --
On Tuesday, FIFA announced that the World Cup will increase its number of teams to 48 starting in 2026 as opposed to the current format of 32 teams. This decision will bring drastic changes to the tournament's format, explained below.
The President of FIFA, Gianni Infantino, successfully passed his proposal to increase the number of teams at the World Cup, after a unanimous vote on Tuesday. Starting in 2026, the World Cup will have 48 teams as opposed to the current format of 32 teams. FIFA hopes the change will bring more entertainment, more games (80 instead of 64), more teams, greater opportunities for smaller nations to qualify, and of course more money. The decision is expected to increase the revenue by over €1 billion compared to the 2018 tournament.
The new format is supported by many smaller nations, particularly in Africa and in Asia, while traditional powerhouses like England and Germany are opposed to the change.
With an increase in the number of teams, the format of the tournament will drastically differ as we know it today. There will now be 16 groups of 3 teams (rather than 8 groups of 4 teams) with the top two teams from each group earning a place in the knockout stages, which will begin with 32 teams. The tournament will continue with the knockout stages until a champion is crowned.
In the group stages, NO match will end in a draw. If two teams are tied after 90 minutes of play, the match will be decided by penalties (no extra time).
This is the first time since 1998 that the number of teams at the World Cup will increase. In France 1998, the first tournament with 32 teams was played.