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The FIFA World Cup will set sail for America in 2026, with 48 teams


The next World Cup will be very big after a tight edition in time and space in Qatar: see you in 2026 for a World Cup on the scale of the North American continent, between Canada,…

The 22nd edition of the World Cup in Qatar barely closed on Sunday, the 23rd is already looming, in three and a half years in North America.

It will host nearly a quarter of the 211 nations affiliated with Fifa, increasing to 48 teams after three decades of World Cups played with 32 selections.

After a first edition with 13 nations in 1930, then 16 until 1978, then 24 until 1994, this new inflation concretizes the first major reform of the president of Fifa Gianni Infantino, adopted in 2017 shortly after his advent.

At the risk of posing unprecedented problems in terms of format and logistics, with potentially a total of more than 100 matches to be scheduled, instead of the usual 64 meetings since 1998.

And beautiful walks in perspective, with in particular among the host cities, Vancouver and Toronto in Canada, Mexico City and Guadalajara in Mexico or Miami, Los Angeles, New York, Dallas, Kansas City in the United States.


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But in the eyes of the most modest nations, this is the perfect opportunity to be able to invite themselves to the big planetary rendezvous.

"For us Africans, it fell from the sky," said former Nigerian international Sunday Oliseh last week.

"I always thought we should have more reps. The more we can play her, the better our chances will be."

 A competition format still under study

The new distribution by confederation gives pride of place to Africa and Asia: 9 tickets (compared to 5 previously) for Africans, 8 (compared to 4.5) for Asians, and one for Oceania (which does not previously referred to as a jump-off).

Given the caliber of the African selections eliminated at the gates of the 2022 World Cup (Egypt, Algeria, Nigeria ...), the 2026 line-up promises to be particularly attractive.

Europe, it goes from 13 to 16 tickets, South America from 4.5 qualified to 6 qualified, and North America, which will qualify the three host countries of the next World Cup, will have a total of 6 representatives in 2026 (against 3.5 today).

Two additional tickets will be awarded via play-offs.

The question of the format remains to be determined: initially, Fifa envisaged 16 groups of three teams, two qualified by pool and then the round of 16.

This made it possible to keep the same number of matches for each team (7 for the finalists), with a total of 80 matches, but ran the risk of an implicit agreement between two teams during their third pool match.

On Friday, Fifa President Gianni Infantino confirmed on Friday that he wanted to revisit this format in the "coming weeks".

"Here (in Qatar), the groups of four have been absolutely amazing until the last minute of every game. We have to reconsider that, at least re-discuss the format, if it's 16 groups of three, or 12 groups of four ...", he said.

If the option of 12 groups of four is chosen, we would potentially reach more than 100 matches...

An increase in resources for FIFA

The number of host cities will double, with 16 stadiums in 2026 against eight enclosures in Qatar, and the economic and environmental puzzle of large distances to cover.

And revenues will swell accordingly: Fifa, which derives the vast majority of its resources from the World Cup, has announced that it is anticipating a record budget of 11 billion dollars (10.3 million euros) over its next four-year cycle 2023- 2026, against 7.5 billion dollars (7.2 billion euros) on the current cycle with a World Cup with 32 selections.

It remains to be seen whether the eruption of more modest nations will weigh on the level of play.

Sunday Oliseh, a member of FIFA's Technical Study Group (TSG), does not believe it, citing the example of the Qatari World Cup where there were many surprises: "I don't think the quality (of game) will suffer. It's the opposite, we saw Saudi Arabia play their first game (2-1 against Argentina) and it was wow!"

The Brazilian Ronaldo, double world champion (1994 and 2002), also says he is "favorable" to this enlargement.

"I find that this format, which gives the opportunity to other countries to participate in this great celebration, is honourable", argued the former centre-forward.

"It will not weigh on the technical level of the next editions, it only increases the number of guests."

 With AFP

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