FIFa world cup expansion slated for 2026 By Jonathan Kaner

The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) unanimously approved an expansion of the number of countries participating in the Men’s World Cup field on January 10, 2017.

“The expansion means more teams taking action in one of the most popular sports events on the planet,” Alejandro Perez Elorza ’18 said. The expansion will cause the total number of teams to rise from 32 to 48 starting in 2026.

The United States Men's Nation Team at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil (Photo: tireball.com).

Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, told ESPN that the reason for the expansion was to give smaller nations from Africa and Asia, who make up 110 of the 211 members of FIFA, a chance at the biggest tournament in the soccer world. The new format for the World Cup looks promising to these countries, as there will be more spots in the tournament available.

Uganda will be one of the countries looking to be a part of the expanded World Cup (Photo: New York Times).

“We have to shape the World Cup for the 21st century,” Infantino said to CNN. “We have to look at football as more than just Europe and South America.”

Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA (Photo: buzzkenya.com).

The new format will feature groups of three instead of four, with the top two from each group advancing to a 32 team knockout round, according to Sports Illustrated. The total number of matches will increase from 64 to 80, but will remain within the same 32-day period.

“The new format will create a congested and less competitive World Cup,” Abi Genser ’18 said. According to Sports Illustrated, the number of teams from UEFA (Europe), CAF (Africa), AFC (Asia), CONMEBOL (South America), CONCACAF (North America) and Oceania is predicted to increase to 16, 9, 8.5, 6, 6.5 and 1 respectively. The count was previously at 13, 5, 4.5, 4.5, 3.5 and .5 respectively. The host country automatically qualifies for the World Cup.

The positive benefits outweigh increased congestion, according to Manchester United F.C. manager Jose Mourinho."The expansion means that the World Cup will be even more of an incredible social event,” Mourinho told FIFA’s website. “More countries, more investment in different countries in infrastructure, in youth football.”

"Football fever in a country that qualifies is the biggest promotional tool for football that you can have,” Infantino said. The expansion would also mean an extra $1 billion to FIFA every four years at the World Cup.

Manager Jose Mourinho is fond of the expansion (Photo: Irish Mirror).

2026 is not the first expansion FIFA has done. The first World Cup in 1930 only had 13 teams. It fluttered around the 16 team mark until 1982, when Spain hosted the first World Cup with 24 teams. In 1998, the tournament expanded again to 32 teams. The 2026 World Cup will see a 50% increase from the current field, and a 269% increase from the inaugural tournament.

Voting for the expansion is only the beginning. The more complex dilemma will involve the political process of choosing the additional 16 spots, which could be the reason for the delay of the new format until 2026.

The inaugural World Cup in 1930 had 13 teams (Photo: FIFA).

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