The FIFA council meeting in Kigali (Rwanda) has approved the new format of the World Cup that will be released in the 2026 edition, to be held in Canada, the United States and Mexico. In the new World Cup, 48 teams will participate, compared to the previous 32, and they will be divided into 12 groups of four. The first two and the eight best third-placed teams will advance to the group stage. The increase in participants will lead to one more tie, the round of 16, and the appointment will last up to 40 days of competition for a total of 103 games, 40 more than in the previous model.
The new design of the World Cup is framed within the also approved new international calendar for the next three years, which has been the cause of strong disputes between FIFA and UEFA, led by their respective presidents, Gianni Infantino and Alexander Ceferin, for Pick the dates for the tournaments they organize. The dates of the competitions are the essential basis on which the exploitation of soccer broadcasting rights and its commercial derivatives such as advertising and marketing are negotiated, the three legs that sustain the soccer industry, fed in turn by the mass consumption by fans around the globe. The battle between FIFA and UEFA led to Infantino’s proposal to hold a World Cup every two years. In reality, this aimed to be more of a strategy than a reality.
Infantino’s true objective was to organize a Club World Cup every four years, including the best European and South American teams, to replace the current one, which is highly devalued, and in which only the champions of each continent participate. UEFA saw it as an initiative that threatened their income from the sale of television rights to the Champions League. Once the agreement is signed, this new Club World Cup will begin to be played in 2025 and the last four champions of the Champions League and the eight best teams in the FIFA ranking will participate. The South Americans will contribute the last two winners of the Copa Libertadores and the best four in the Conmebol standings. Africa, Asia and Central America contribute four, Oceania one and the host country another.
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