FIFA likely to stick to 4-team group format for expanded 48-team 2026 World Cup (Ld)

FIFA president Gianni Infantino confirmed the governing body is reconsidering the format of the 2026 World Cup in the United States, Mexico and Canada following the “”success” of the four-team groups at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Infantino was addressing the media in Doha on Friday following a FIFA Council meeting earlier in the day.

“Here the groups of four have been absolutely incredible. Until the last minute of the last match you would not know who goes through,” said Infantino.

The group stages in Qatar saw 32 teams drawn into eight groups of four nations leading into the knockout rounds. The four-team group format, with the top two going through to the knockout stages, has been used since the men’s World Cup expanded to 32 teams in 1998.

Spanning 24 years and seven editions, the format saw some exciting final group games in Qatar as countries tried to secure a top-two place to qualify for the last 16.

In 2026, 48 teams will take part in the World Cup — 45 qualifying nations plus the three host countries. FIFA president Gianni Infantino has indicated none of the hosts will have to go through qualifying.

Initially, FIFA planned for the 2026 tournament to consist of 16 groups of three teams but Infantino suggested groups of four are likely to remain.

“I have to say, after this World Cup and the success of groups of four and looking at other competitions such as the Euros, here (four-team groups) have been incredible. We have to revisit or at least re-discuss the format. This is something that will certainly be on the agenda in the next meeting,” he added

Speaking two days before Qatar 2022’s final, Infantino summarised the tournament as a success in every way, in his opinion, praising the behaviour of supporters.

“The World Cup has been an incredible success on all fronts,” said Infantino.

“The main one being the fans, the behaviour, the joyful atmosphere, the bringing of people together. The fans meeting the Arab world, it has been very important for the future of all of us.

“When it comes to the matches, we have seen some incredibly competitive games, some surprises, some great goals.

“At the end of the day, there was on average 10 minutes played as additional time every match. This was a very fair World Cup on the pitch, no simulations, not so many yellow and red cards.

“But this shows the compliment goes to the players and coaches, who maintained their calm, and of course the referees.”

With the third-place play-off and final to go, he said 3.27 million spectators have attended the games compared to an overall 3.3 million at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

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