According to world football’s top official, Gianni Infantino, the introduction of three-team groups for the 2026 World Cup appears to be changing.
FIFA had previously stated that the first round of the 2026 finals, which will include 48 teams instead of 32, would see the nations divided into 16 groups of three.
The top two teams from each group would proceed to a 32-team knockout competition using that format.
The spectacular success of the current first-round structure at the World Cup in Qatar, where teams were split into conventional groups of four, however, has spurred a rethink, according to FIFA President Infantino.
Qualification for a few groups in Qatar came down to the wire and hung in the balance until the last siren.
“The groups of four have been absolutely incredible until the last minute of the last match,” Infantino told a press conference in Doha.
“We have to revisit or at least rediscuss the format, whether it’s 16 groups of three or 12 groups of four. This is something that will be on the agenda in the next few weeks.”
The 2026 World Cup format, according to Infantino, might be modeled after the European Championship, which features six groups of four teams, with the four best third-place teams also moving on to the knockout stages.
The United States, Canada, and Mexico are sharing hosting duties for the 2026 World Cup.
According to Infantino, FIFA would benefit financially from the expanded competition.
It is anticipated that revenues will rise to $11 billion in the four-year cycle ending in 2026 from $7.5 billion in the cycle ending in 2022.
When asked to provide an explanation for the enormous predicted rise in income, Infantino pointed to the increased number of teams, the infrastructure of the stadiums that already exist, and the magnitude of the North American market.
“We are bullish about the power of football,” Infantino said. “We are convinced the impact of the game will be massive.
“It has been massive here and it will be incredible in North America. Three huge countries, 48 teams.
“More games, revenues will go up in terms of broadcasting, in terms of sponsorship, hospitality.
“We will play in huge stadiums used for American football, 80-90,000 capacity. We are expecting 5.5 million fans travelling for these events.”
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