World Cup 2026: Why did FIFA changed the format for the World Cup 2026?

Why did FIFA change the format for the 2026 World Cup?

FIFA changed the format for the World Cup 2026: The upcoming soccer competition in the United States, Mexico, and Canada was initially planned to have 16 groups of three teams due to an increase in the number of units from 32 to 48.

However, the four-team format at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar was successful, and the governing body decided to reconsider the format. As a result, the competition will now include a new round-of-32 stage, expanding the number of matches from 80 to 104. The top two teams and the eight best third-placed teams will progress to the last 32.

FIFA, the governing body of world football, stated that the revised format reduces the risk of collision and ensures that all teams play at least three matches while providing balanced rest time between the competing teams. The decision to change the format was approved at FIFA’s council meeting in Rwanda. FIFA President Gianni Infantino had previously suggested a format change after the exciting final games in the group stages in Qatar.

Since the men’s World Cup expanded to 32 teams in 1998, the four-team group format with the top two teams qualifying for the knockout stages has been used. With the new round-of-32 stage, teams will now have to play eight matches to win the tournament, one more than the seven required at the 2022 World Cup.

2026 World Cup

FIFA also approved the men’s international match calendar from 2025-2030 and announced that the final of the 2026 World Cup will be played on Sunday, July 19, 2026. According to FIFA, the “mandatory” date for clubs to release players for the tournament will start on May 25, 2026, following the last official club match on May 24, 2026. However, exemptions may apply to the final matches of confederation club competitions until May 30, 2026, subject to FIFA’s approval.

The women’s international match calendar will keep its six international windows per year and will include the women’s Olympic football tournament, scheduled from July 25 to August 10, 2024.

Why did FIFA change the format for the World Cup 2026?

The FIFA Council has made changes to the structure of the World Cup 2026 group stage, which will now feature 12 groups of four teams instead of the original plan of 16 groups of three teams. As a result, the number of matches in the tournament will increase from 64 in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to 104. The competition will be held in the United States, Mexico, and Canada.

The initial format was adopted in January 2017 when the World Cup was expanded from 32 to 48 nations. However, the previous structure had a potential issue where the last day of the group stage would have included two teams competing while one team rested, which could have encouraged corruption.

To avoid this, FIFA had already introduced a rule where all teams in a group kick off simultaneously on the final day, following the controversial Disgrace of Gijรณn at the 1982 World Cup in Spain. During that match, West Germany and Austria knew that a one- or two-goal win by the Germans would advance both nations at the expense of Algeria, which had played a day earlier. West Germany ultimately won 1-0 after scoring early in the game, with no further threats from either team.

FIFA has also announced that the championship game will take place on July 19, but the location has yet to be decided. Three front-runners for hosting the tournament are East Rutherford, New Jersey; Arlington, Texas; and Inglewood, California.

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Pratap is a freelance content writer based in India. He is a sports enthusiastic and loves reporting news and events related to sports like Cricket, Soccer/Football.