FIFA reportedly planning to backflip on plan to have three-team groups at 2026 World Cup
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FIFA are reportedly planning to backflip on plans to have three-team groups at the 2026 World Cup.
The tournament is set to take place across the United States, Mexico, and Canada with the finals increased from 32 to 48 teams.
The original format that has been in place since the France World Cup in 1998 allowed for eight groups of four teams - which has been tried and tested.
However, with the increase of nations that will qualify for the upcoming tournament to 48, FIFA were planning to change the format to 16 groups of three nations.
But with the success of the group stage in Qatar, which was arguably the best round of the entire tournament, has forced a recalculation.
There was complete drama in the final day of group matches at the 2022 World Cup, making for some emotion-fuelled football.
Now, the BBC reports that FIFA would be discussing the confirmation of a plan change during a council meeting in Rwanda on 16 March.
Concacaf president Victor Montaglian told the FT Business of Football Summit: “Groups of three sounded great but there are some issues.
"Is it right that you qualify for a World Cup and a third of teams go home after two games?
"We do have to be responsible. There was a footprint of days for 2014 and 2018 and we can't go over that. We can't have a three-month World Cup."
Reverting to groups of four while keeping the 48 team format would increase the projected matches from 80 to a possible 104.
And there are concerns of the environmental ‘footprint’ this would have on the competition between fans and teams travelling across North America.
However, Montagliani says that the issue would be dealt with prior to the tournament.
He continued: “The match schedule is very important.
"You can't have teams travelling from New York to Los Angeles.
"Teams will play in pods. There will be a group playing out of Boston, Philadelphia and New York. Another one in Vancouver and Seattle and another in LA and San Francisco.
"There are other strategies that have to be applied as well so we adhere to what is put in the bid."
Following the success of the Qatar World Cup, FIFA president Gianni Infantino admitted the format would need to be re-discussed.
"Here the groups of four have been absolutely incredible," said Infantino.
"Until the last minute of the last match, you would not know who goes through.
"We have to revisit or at least re-discuss the format. This is something that will certainly be on the agenda in the next meeting."
Featured Image Credit: Newscom / Alamy. FUFA61 / Alamy.
Topics: FIFA, Football World Cup