FIFA Council agrees four team 2026 group stage, boosting total World Cup matches to 104

By Samindra Kunti in Kigali, Rwanda

March 15 – The World Cup will never be quite the same again. FIFA and its council decided that the global finals must be seemingly endless, the 48-team finals have now grown into a group stage of four teams and a tournament of 104 matches, eight to reach the final. In all the competition will last six, or seven days longer.

FIFA and its president have been very bullish about the prospects of staging the World Cup in North America, hosted by the triumvirate of the United States, Canada and Mexico, generating a monumental revenue amount of $11 billion with that figure now buttressed by the promise of even more matches – 104 matches instead of 64, in a 48-team format up from 32.

“It’s the right thing to do,” said Concacaf president and Fifa Council member Victor Montagliani. “The tournament will be 6, 7 days longer but the actual footprint between release and the final is the same.”

The preparation time, as it was for the recent World Cup, will be more limited, to accommodate the expanded group stage.

“The revised format mitigates the risk of collusion and ensures that all the teams play a minimum of three matches while providing balanced rest time between competing teams,” FIFA said.

“With the experience of Qatar – a great World Cup – you don’t have simultaneous kickoffs. That was brought up right away by the media, could this be a problem?” said Montagliani. “The other thing is rewarding teams – you qualify for a World Cup so it just made sense (to have more than just two games at the finals), but we just needed to do it responsibly. We kept it at the footprint. It is 56 days.”

Montagliani dismissed player fatigue as a major factor in FIFA’s new design. “The tournament is only one more game,” said the Canadian. “Whoever gets to the final, it is only one more game. That’s only four teams that will be affected. If you tell most people that at eight games you will be in the world cup final, they’d take it.”

FIFA had originally planned the World Cup as 80 matches and within the traditional 7-match requirement to get to the final before discarding the format.

The world federation has not yet decided on how to bevvy up the 20 extra matches between the three hosts. In the previous format, the United States were to host the majority of the matches.

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