Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 11th 2017 Contents sports A45
Wednesday, January 11, 2017 guardian.co.tt
Fifa expands to
48 teams in 2026
ZURICH---Fifa will expand the World Cup
to 48 teams, adding 16 extra nations to the
2026 tournament that is likely to be held
in North America.
President Gianni Infantino's favored plan---
for 16 three-team groups with the top two ad-
vancing to a round of 32---was unanimously
It meets Infantino's election pledge of a
bigger and more inclusive World Cup going
beyond European and South American teams,
which have won all 20 titles.
"We have to shape the football World Cup
of the 21st century," said Infantino, who also
promised funding increases for Fifa's 211 mem-
ber federations at his election last February.
With 80 matches instead of 64, Fifa fore-
casts the equivalent of $1 billion extra income
at current rates from broadcasting and sponsor
deals, plus ticket sales, compared to $5.5 bil-
lion revenue forecast for the 2018 World Cup
Fifa projects an increased profit of $640
million despite some extra operating costs
and prize money for teams.
Fifa's six continents should find out by May
how many extra places they will each get.
"No guarantees have been made," Infantino
said. "The only sure thing is that obviously
with 48 teams everyone will have a bit more
than they have today."
UEFA wants 16 European teams at the tour-
nament, which is strongly favored to be played
in North America. The Concacaf region has not
hosted the World Cup since the 1994 tourna-
ment in the United States.
American, Canadian and Mexican soc-
cer leaders have had informal talks about a
Fifa members are scheduled to pick the host
in May 2020, though there could be little com-
petition in a process Infantino said must be
"bullet-proof" to meet all integrity rules.
Africa and Asia could be winners in a bigger
World Cup with up to nine places each. They
had only five and four teams, respectively, at
the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Still, Fifa said it expects the standard of
soccer to drop compared to the 32-team for-
mat locked in for the next two World Cups in
Russia and Qatar.
The "absolute quality" of play, defined by
high-ranked teams facing each other most of-
ten, is achieved by 32 teams, Fifa acknowledged
in a research document sent to members last
month. It made 10,000 tournament simula-
tions to reach that conclusion.
Instead, Infantino wants to create fervor
and months of anticipation back home in the
16 extra nations which would qualify, some
probably making their World Cup debut. Fifa
has pointed to Costa Rica, Wales and Iceland
as examples of teams which overachieved at
Fifa must break with soccer tradition to make
its new format work after an original 48-team
plan---with an opening playoff round sending
16 "one-and-done" teams home early ---was
Instead, three-team groups will replace the
usual groups of four to create simple progress
to a knockout bracket. However, it leaves one
team idle for final group games and could risk
collusion between the other two teams. Fifa
said it could guard against result-rigging by
introducing penalty shootouts after group
games that end in draws.
Infantino said a decision could wait until
2024 to agree on competition rules.
Despite the 16 extra games, Fifa believes the
current maximum of stadiums needed will stay
at the 12 used by Brazil and Russia. However,
the demand for more training bases and hotels
means developed countries would be better
equipped to win future hosting contests.
North America is the strong favorite for
2026 because European and Asian countries
are blocked by a Fifa rule excluding continents
which hosted either of the two previous tour-
naments. Russia will host the World Cup next
year and Qatar in 2022.
South America has been focused on a cen-
tenary tournament including original 1930
host Uruguay, and African nations are seen
as lacking existing capacity and unlikely to fund
multi-billion dollar infrastructure spending.
Here we look at the format for the bigger
World Cup finals.
How will it work?
The headline is that the 48 teams will be
divided into 16 groups of three. From there,
the top two countries will progress to a round-
of-32 knockout stage, an additional phase from
the format that is currently in place. Infantino
accentuated the positives in his press confer-
ence - that the competition will still last 32
days and that the eventual winners will play
a maximum of seven games, as they do now.
The only difference being one of those matches
will be in a knockout situation, rather than an
extra group game.
Where will the extra countries come
Where the 16 extra slots will be assigned was
not determined on Tuesday, though Infanti-
no said it will be "looked at speedily." For the
2018 tournament in Russia, European nations
will account for 13 of the 32 spots, five will
come from Africa, four or five from South
America and Asia, three or four from North
America, while Oceania only has one place if
that country wins a play-off contest and one
is reserved for the hosts. Infantino hinted Af-
rican countries will be big benefactors, due to
the fact the Confederation of African Football
has only one fewer member than UEFA, while
confirming each confederation will definitely
have more representatives. Nations in Oceania
can therefore expect to be guaranteed a berth.
How will they determine
One of the biggest question marks sur-
rounds how the qualification process of those
slimmed-down groups will work. As Infantino
admitted, in groups of three, there is a greater
chance of teams finishing level on points, level
on goal difference and level on goals scored.
Collusion may be an issue too - with teams
possibly knowing scenarios which could see
them both progress before their final group
match. Therefore a number of tie-breaking
scenarios are under consideration, including
nations' world rankings, something which
would be decided prior to the tournament,
and the possibility of penalty shoot-outs being
introduced in the group stages.
When was the last time the World Cup
The World Cup has been steadily expanding
since its inception in 1930 when 13 countries
participated across 18 games. Only 16 quali-
fied for the finals up until the 1982 edition in
Spain, where 24 teams competed in a tourna-
ment which featured two group stages before
the semifinals. The current format of 32 teams
has been used since the 1998 tournament in
France, with eight groups of four and 16 teams
heading through to the knockout rounds. But,
in nine years' time, the World Cup is now set
to grow to 48 teams, twice the size of the 1994
World Cup in America.
We look at the major changes to the com-
petition since it started in 1930
1930 - Host: Uruguay - 13 teams - 18 matches
1934 - Italy - 16 teams - 17 matches
1950 - Brazil - 13 teams - 22 matches
1954 - Switzerland - 16 teams - 26 matches
1974 - West Germany - 16 teams - 38 matches
1982 - Spain - 24 teams - 52 matches
1986 - Mexico - 24 teams - 52 matches
1998 - France - 32 teams - 64 matches
2026 - TBC - 48 teams - 80 matches
The 2016 format is as folows; 16 groups
of three followed by a 32-team knockout, a
proposal remains in place to decide all drawn
matches via penalty shoot-outs. (AP)
Gianni Infantino, Fifa president speaks after the Fifa Council meeting at t the Home of Fifa in
Zurich, Switzerland, yesterday. AP PHOTO
PARIS---France says that or-
ganising the European soccer
championships last summer
provided an economic boost
worth 1.2 billion euros (cur-
rently $1.26 billion) to the
According to figures from the
Centre for Law and Economics of
Sport, the continental soccer tour-
nament attracted 2.5 million fans
in stadiums as well as 600,000
visitors from abroad.
The study said that hosting the
Euro 2016 also generated 74.3 mil-
lion euros in extra fiscal revenue
for the state.
With France also bidding for
the 2024 Olympics, sports min-
ister Patrick Kanner told a news
conference Tuesday that hosting
big sporting events is "an oppor-
A study by the same institute es-
timates that hosting the Olympics
in Paris could generate 10.7 billion
euros in economic benefits and
create more than 250,000 jobs in
the French capital region.
Euro 2016 generated 1.2 billion-euro boost for France
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