Change of course at FIFA. Meeting this week in congress in Kigali, Rwanda, the authority of soccer lifted the veil on the format of the men’s World Cup in 2026. It no longer resembles the initial version. The FIFA council announced on Tuesday, March 14 (photo above) that the next world tournament, co-hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico, would be played for its preliminary phase in twelve pools of four teams. With this formula, the number of matches will increase to 104 for the whole competition, against 64 at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The top two teams in each group, plus the eight best third-placed teams, will advance to the round of 16, a level of the tournament that did not exist in previous editions. FIFA explains: “The new format reduces the risk of collusion and guarantees a minimum of three matches for each team, with a balanced rest period between the competing teams.” It also has the huge advantage of multiplying the number of matches, and with it the revenue from marketing, ticketing and television rights. In the initial formula envisaged by the body – 16 pools of three teams, with the first two advancing to the round of 16 – the 2026 World Cup would have offered a total of 80 matches. Since Tuesday, March 14, it has included 24 additional matches, thus the certainty of a record number of tickets. The council of the body also decided that the final will be played on July 19, 2026. The venue, however, will be decided later. As a reminder, the 16 host cities were announced last June. Eleven of them are located in the United States (Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Kansas City, Houston, Philadelphia, Miami, New York), two in Canada (Toronto and Vancouver), and three in Mexico (Guadalajara, Mexico City and Monterrey).
— Published 15 March 2023