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Community Corner: What’s the best format for a 48-team World Cup?

When the World Cup expands to 48 teams, what’s the best way to do it?

France v Croatia - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Final Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

FIFA is about to expand the World Cup to a 48-team tournament, up from its current format of 32 teams. Whether it’s in 2026 for the World Cup that will take place in the United States, Mexico, or Canada, or if FIFA president Gianni Infantino gets his way and expands the tournament in 2022 in Qatar, the question that many will ask is what format is the best to contest the huge field.

FIFA’s operating under the assumption a 48-team World Cup will consist of 16 groups of 3 teams each, with the top 2 in each group moving to the knockout stage, forming a 32-team, single elimination bracket. There are some drawbacks to this format, however. With groups of 3 teams, you will always have a team sitting out each matchday, and each team is guaranteed only 2 matches. There could be a long gap between games, and with one team sitting out while the other two play their last match, there can be the opening for collusion to occur. Finally, with 16 teams from Europe being let into the tournament, some would say they’re at an advantage, as they wouldn’t be able to be drawn against each other.

There’s also the option for FIFA to employ 12 groups of 4 teams each, where the top 2 teams from each group and 8 third place teams head to the knockout stage. This is the format that most fans are familiar with from the 32-team format, and it would provide some of the final matchday drama that we’ve come to expect in the World Cup. However, it would take the number of matches from 80 in the 16-group format to 104 matches. That’s a ton of soccer for the fans, but a logistical nightmare for most potential hosts.

So, what say you? Which format is the best for a 48-team World Cup: 12 groups of 4, 16 groups of 3, or is there another format that you think works best? Hit the poll, then slide into the comments to explain what you think is the best way to go for this eventual World Cup expansion.


What’s the best format for a 48-team World Cup?

This poll is closed

  • 79%
    12 groups of 4 teams
    (605 votes)
  • 9%
    16 groups of 3 teams
    (70 votes)
  • 10%
    (83 votes)
758 votes total Vote Now