Money the key factor behind 48 team World Cup in 2026

Raucous celebrations broke out in Panini Towers following the news that the 2026 World Cup will be expanded to 48 teams, and some cynics even wished for the return of shamed FIFA president Sepp Blatter with the news that there will be 16 groups of three teams for the new-look World Cup, which has been labelled by new FIFA chief Gianni Infantino as a "more inclusive" tournament.

Inclusivity it may bring, with a host of nations now believing they have a genuine chance of reaching the greatest sporting event of them all, but there's sure to be some matches that are about as exciting as a Checkatrade Trophy first round match, and we all know FIFA's smokescreen of a "more inclusive" football extravaganza is to merely eke out as much money they can from the event.

How Will It Work?

As mentioned above there will be 16 groups of three teams battling it out for a top-two qualifying berth, and with that, 32 teams making it through to the knockout stages, so some could argue the case that the winning side will only need to play seven games to hold the trophy aloft, as they do in the current World Cup format.

But, with this expansion there's a huge loss to the final matchday, as one nation will just have to sit back and watch the other two countries battle it out, and for many of the groups there could be two sides in need of a certain result to qualify (think Germany v Austria at World Cup '82) and this could easily devalue the competition.

There have been murmurings that a penalty shoot-out could be used at the end of any draws during the group stages to decide a winner, which would surely diminish the competition even further as a side could defend heroically for a draw, and lose out on spot-kicks.

Inclusivity Waters Down Quality

Many had celebrated the fact that the World Cup was expanded to 32 teams at France '98, but surely this enhancement to 48 teams will overall prove detrimental to the quality of the tournament, and while it has not been released what football federations will gain more qualification spots then it will surely dampen down an already laborious qualification process.

But, let's focus on the World Cup finals, and with 48 nations battling it out for glory then the quality is sure to be lowered during the early rounds, and interest will only emerge when we get down to the nitty-gritty of the last-16, where the footballing heavyweights begin to clash in mouth-watering fixtures.

Infantino has already been quoted saying their will be a financial upside to a 48-team World Cup, so let's not be duped into thinking about this expansion being introduced to widen the 'Beautiful Game', but it's just to give a platform for FIFA to earn more cash at the highest level.

Posted: Tuesday, 10th January 2017
Author: Steve Chambo

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