The 2026 World Cup has its venues defined. The next World Cup will be played in the USA, Canada and Mexico, however it does not have an established format, who says so is the head of FIFA’s football development department, Arsène Wenger. He declared at a press conference in Doha, Qatar.
When answering a question about the format of the next edition of the World Cup, the first in history to be played with 48 countries, Wenger declared:
“In this 48-team World Cup, the format has yet to be decided. It could be 16 groups with three teams, it could be 12 groups with four teams each, or maybe split into two sides with 24 teams. It will be decided by the [FIFA] Council next year,” he said.
When FIFA announced the increase in national squads in the World Cup (from 32 to 48 teams) in January 2017, the sport’s governing body announced that the tournament would be divided into 16 groups with three teams each and that the two best teams from each key would advance to a knockout with 32 classified.
However, this format creates a sporting problem: with two ties, a team is automatically classified, which could encourage defensive behavior in most teams. Another negative point that is highlighted is that the odd number of teams in each group could allow “convenience results” in the last rounds.
The World Cup in Qatar showed that the current format (groups of four teams and the two best classified) allows final rounds with drama and emotion. Groups C (with Argentina, Poland, Mexico and Arabia disputing a place until the final minutes), E (in which Japan eliminated Germany with a controversial goal) and H (in which Korea overcame Uruguay, who needed an extra goal to go through) are examples of this.