World Cups, the next ones will be a mess

Archived (or almost) i Qatar 2022 World Cupthe Fifa is already working on the next edition of the tournament to be held in 2026. If the World Cup which is about to end seemed chaotic to you at a football level (on the political and social front we have fully accounted for the price paid), with the interruption of the championships which compressed the calendars and a final close to Christmasget ready because even in four years there will be other great upheavals.

Flying drone with camera

Starting from where the competition will be held. They will even be three host countries: United States, Canada and Mexico. It had never happened before that more than two nations organized a World Cup: the only precedent in fact is the World Cup in South Korea and Japan in 2022. However, in 2020 (then played in 2021 due to the Covid pandemic), the European Championship won by Roberto Mancini’s Italy was the first history traveling football tournament, held in eleven different European countries: from Seville to Baku. Distances aside, United 2026 (this is how the next World Cup has been renamed), will also see some news related to the composition of the tournament, let’s see which ones.

The logo of “United 2026”

ALFREDO ESTRELLA/Getty Images

48-team World Cup

The only certainty about the new formula and the expansion of the number of participants: in fact, one would go from Current 32 to 48. However, Fifa has not yet decided how to divide the teams in the group stage, the first hypothesis had been to draw up 16 groups of 3 teamsfor a total of 80 matches.

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However, in recent weeks this modality has been strongly questioned by the football system for two reasons: the first is linked to the possibility that the third group match may have a decline in interest by the public if qualification had already been decided in the first two games, while if instead the third game were to prove decisive for the purposes of qualifying for the next phase, the risk of “Biscuits”i.e. of combined results.

For this reason, the hypothesis of a new subdivision with 12 groups, always with four teams: in this way the third game would be simultaneously again. In this way, however, the matches to be played would rise to 104 and the tournament is expected to be extended by a week. President Infantino, in the last press conference of Qatar 2022, announced that the formula will be at the center of the Fifa debates in the coming weeks. Whatever the choice on the group stage will be, what we know is that the first two teams classified will play the round of 32, with a total path of 8 matches instead of the current 7 for the finalists. If, on the other hand, the hypothesis of three-team groups were to be confirmed, for the finalist national teams the path to the final would always remain 7 races, as the last group match would be replaced by the round of 32 match. Obviously, the increase in matches has not been welcomed by the clubs, as an extension would lead to further condensing the championship and cup calendars by postponing the withdrawals.

The president of Fifa, Gianni Infantino

Howard Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images

More than a logistics problem

Twenty-three stadiums in three different countries and many matches concentrated in a short time. The new format of the tournament could create more than a few logistical problems not only for the teams involved, but also for fans and journalists.

  • Vancouver and Toronto are the host cities of the Canada
  • Monterrey, Guadalajara and Mexico City those of the Mexico,
  • Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Kansas City, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Miami, Philadelphia, New York and Bostonthose of the United States

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Between Vancouver and Mexico City, respectively the northernmost and southernmost cities of the tournament, there is a distance of 4,781.1 kilometres. The Canadian city will also be the westernmost of the 2026 World Cup and is separated by 5,143.9 kilometers and three hours of time zone. Speaking of time zones, it will also be interesting to understand if Fifa will manage to fix the matches in as much as possible timetables easily accessible also to Europe: if Italy were to be there (and we have learned that it is not obvious even though the tournament will be extended to 48 teams), and were to play matches at 8 pm in Vancouver, to cheer on the Azzurri we would have to wake up at 5 in the morning. A great effort even for the most passionate.

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