FIFA’s recently announced that it will be expanding the World Cup to 48 teams from the current 32 by the 2026 tournament. This news should have elated soccer fans who usually can’t get enough of the global sport, but a select few aren’t happy.
In a unanimous vote on Tuesday, January 10th, 2017, FIFA’s executive committee approved the largest single expansion in the organization’s history. This change will definitely have a significant impact on the usual month-long structure of the tournament, including an increase in matchups.
FIFA’s decision to raise the number of teams has come as good news to the largest percentage of FIFA’s 211 members — especially in Africa, Asia and Oceania — that never get a chance to have a taste of the World Cup.
However, some stakeholders like the European Club Association — an umbrella representative organization for about 200 top European clubs — weren’t impressed by the move. They argue that this may dilute the quality of the game.
While FIFA forecasts that the expansion could see TV, ticketing and sponsorship earnings rise by up to $1 billion during the initial phase of the 2026 event alone, others are reading this move as a ploy by an organization recently emerging from a series of corruption scandals to increase its revenues.
Also, there are those that see the expansion as an unnecessary burden on the host countries, as well as something that could be a bit too much for some of the top soccer players in the world because they’ll now have more rigorous schedules.
The pro-reform group New FIFA Now also criticized the move as a misstep that will deny soccer fans the suspense that makes the World Cup tick. According to them, in addition to stronger teams qualifying easily, the initial matches will also be more of a formality for many teams, ridding the tournament of its luster. This won’t help the game to develop or offer lower-ranked countries enhanced competitive opportunities in any way.
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