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Here’s why FIFA changed the format of World Cup 2026

The FIFA Council revised the 2026 World Cup group stage structure to 12 groups of four teams from 16 groups of three teams on Tuesday, bringing the total number of matches up to 104 from 64 in the 2022 tournament in Qatar. A fresh set of 32 teams will begin the knockout stage, with the top two teams in each group and the top eight third-place teams moving on. 


As the tournament increased from 24 teams to 32 teams in 1998, third-place teams were no longer eligible for advancement. As a result of the alteration, there will be 104 matches, up from the 80 matches under the planned 2026 format and double the 52 matches at the World Cup held in the United States in 1994. More tickets to sell and more content for television broadcasters to provide translates to more money for FIFA.


As the World Cup was enlarged from 32 to 48 nations commencing in 2026, the Council decided to adopt the original format for the competition in the United States, Mexico, and Canada in January 2017. The group's last day would have included two teams competing while one team rested, which could have encouraged corruption.


The Disgrace of Gijón at the 1982 World Cup in Spain, where West Germany and Austria knew that a one- or two-goal win by the Germans would advance both nations at the expense of Algeria, which played a day earlier, led to the adoption of the current schedule, which has all teams in a group kick off simultaneously on the final day. West Germany prevailed 1-0 as Horst Hrubesch scored in the tenth minute with no further threats from either team.


The FIFA announced the July 19 date for the championship. The location has not yet been chosen, but the three front-runners are East Rutherford, New Jersey; Arlington, Texas; and Inglewood, California. The tournament's duration, which is anticipated to run between 38 and 42 days, has not been stated. This is an increase from 32 for the 2018 World Cup in Russia and 29 for the competition held in Qatar last year. The 1994 competition took place between June 17 and July 17.

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