FIFA President Gianni Infantino has made it known that he wants to change the World Cup format to allow more teams to compete in the event. As opposed to the current 32 teams, he would like to expand the competition to 48 countries. The idea of expanding the tournament isn’t the main problem that fans are having with this, it’s how group play will take place that’s causing belly-aching around the world – as well as the potential increase in the number of games for international players.
Infantino proposes having a “new, opening playoff round for 32 of the 48 finalists. The 16 winners would then join 16 seeded teams to begin a 32-team group stage that follows the current World Cup format.”
This would mean that many teams would be eliminated after a single game – no bouncing back after a shaky start or an off-night. Simply, one and done. FIFA member nations immediately baulked at the idea, but they’re not alone in their opposition.
The World Is Not Happy With Infantino
Expansion makes sense on one level. It allows more teams to play in the World Cup, a hugely social event. Yet, the European Club Association, which accounts for over 200 clubs, has raised major concerns to the plan. One has to do with how many games are already being played by national team players.
The association released the following statement to that effect:
“The number of games being played throughout the year has already reached an unacceptable level, in particular for national team players.
“The ECA executive board therefore rejects such initiative and has today sent a letter to Gianni Infantino calling on FIFA not to increase the number of participants at future World Cups.”
We’ll have to wait to see where this ends up. The final decision will be made by the FIFA Council on January 9th and 10th in Zurich, but the new changes won’t be instituted until the 2026 World Cup. Then, that may not even be the end. If there is more push-back after the event starts, expect the world governing body to go back to the drawing board.