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FIFA to expand 2026 World Cup AGAIN with four-team groups and 104 matches

FIFA to expand 2026 World Cup AGAIN with four-team groups and 104 matches

The next World Cup will see a record number of matches take place

FIFA are set to make a U-turn on their plans for the 2026 World Cup, but in doing so will expand the tournament even further.

The 2022 World Cup in Qatar was a roaring success on the pitch, but much was made about how it would be the last 'normal' edition of the tournament.

That's because back in 2017, FIFA announced that the 2026 edition - hosted by the United States, Mexico and Canada - would see 48 teams take part in the group stage.

But instead of dividing the teams into 12 groups of four, FIFA decided that it was a better idea to have 16 groups of three instead.

Nobody was particularly keen on the idea, but the change became a talking point during the most recent tournament.

People remembered how much excitement and jeopardy comes with having the final round of group games take place simultaneously. With groups of three, that simply couldn't happen.

There's also the issue of fairness, as not having simultaneous games increases the chances of two sides colluding to secure the result they both need.

In a rare case of FIFA reading the room, the governing body now looks set to make a U-turn.

The decision to bring back four-team groups will be approved at a meeting of the FIFA Council later on Tuesday in Rwanda’s capital Kigali.

Gianni Infantino will soon confirm that the format of the 2026 World Cup will change

However, while the number of teams at the 2026 World Cup will remain at 48, changing the group format will mean the tournament will now be a record 104 games long.

By comparison, the Qatar World Cup was 64 games long, while the three-team group version of the 2026 tournament would have involved 80 matches.

The extended schedule will be accomodated for by cutting the pre-tournament release period - used by players and teams to prepare - by a week from 23 days.

It is unclear how the extra matches will be shared between the host nations; the US were due to host 60 matches with Canada and Mexico staging 10 each.

On Tuesday, CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani said that the change could mean that six group stage games are held on the same day.

Featured Image Credit: PA/Alamy

Topics: Football World Cup, FIFA, Gianni Infantino, Qatar, United States