The revolution that prepares FIFA for the 2026 World Cup

Throughout history, the World Cup has undergone changes in its format. For example, the last editions of 1930 and 1934 were dissimilar. In the one that took place in Uruguay, 13 teams played, there was a group stage, with a zone made up of four teams and another three divided into trios. Only the leader of each one qualified, to then play the semifinal.

Four years later, in the fascist Italy of Benito Mussolini, a championship was played with 16 teams, which started in the round of 16. In other words, you could leave in the first game. Hence, various competition configurations have existed in the planetary event.

However, the one known today has been in use for 36 years. Since Mexico 1986, the World Cups are like that. With the exception, it is worth saying, that at that time there were better third parties in the first half. Only in France 1998, when the number of teams went from 24 to 32, the third teams had no chance of advancing to the round of sixteen.

Changes exist, but essential elements remain. For example, that only in the elimination instance, where a defeat leaves you out, there are penalty shootouts. At some point the points of victory were changed, from two to three, but always a tie gives one and a loss zero. That could partially change.

Before detailing the new competition method, it is necessary to say that with the increase from 32 to 48 casts, there will be a redistribution of the quotas. In other words, for the North American contest the Conmebol will have 6.5 places. This means that in the next Qualifiers, six teams will be able to go to the World Cup and the seventh to the playoffs. The rest of the confederations are divided into 8.5 for Asia, 9.5 for Africa, 6 for Concacaf, 1.5 for Oceania and 16 for Europe.

In sum, 48 countries. How are they distributed? FIFA says goodbye to eight groups of four nations. Now there will be 16, from three teams, where two advance to the round of 32, in a larger field than usual. To this, a new eventual measure is added.

Wojciech Szczesny saves a penalty from Lionel Messi in Qatar 2022. Photo: REUTERS/Peter Cziborra

According to what was published by The Athletic, the governing body would be re-evaluating an idea that had been left in the freezer: the penalty shootout in the group stage. Given the eventual score equalities that a zone with only three teams can generate, it could go to a definition from twelve steps after equalizing in the initial round. Of course, the winner of the maximum penalties would not take the three points. He would be left with only two. In other words, a common victory gives you three units, therefore, zero when losing. Now a parity could give you two points, if, later, you prevail in the eleven meters. Whoever falls for the shots from the area, should be satisfied only with the positive obtained for being in a draw.

The main changes in the World Cups occurred when they achieved stability. The first three editions, before the Second World War, were different from those that would come later, because FIFA still did not have the level of organization it has today. it is known.

When the tournament for the best was resumed, in Brazil 1950, a championship was held with 13 participants. Two groups with four teams, one with three and the other with only two. The leader of each one advanced to a homer that defined the champion. This is why the famous Maracanazo was not a World Cup final. Strictly speaking, it was the last date of the league. That is why the tie served the Scratch.

Four years later it would be played with 16 teams, something that would remain for decadesgiving consistency to the contest. Of course, the joust played in Switzerland would have several curiosities. FIFA designated seeding heads and scheduled four matches for each zone, avoiding clashes between the “best seeds”, even if they shared a table.

Uruguay beat Brazil and kept the 1950 title, but it was not a final as such.

Also, if there was a tie, an overtime was played in the first round. In case of equalizing in 120 minutes, the game ended like this, with one unit for each team. After this unique stage, the quarterfinals began, where everything took a more “normal” course.

In the search for the ideal system, the world football governing federation managed to organize the World Cups of 1958, 1962, 1966 and 1970 without regulatory movements. Four groups of four, where the first two entered the tie. The type of format that was used, for example, in the Copa América Centenario.

However, in 1974 another modification came. The contest played in West Germany did not have a direct elimination phase. From the first round they advanced to another group, where the leaders played the final and the second, the duel for bronze. In Argentina 1978 it was the same, but in Spain 1982, as it increased from 16 to 24 countries, they decided to divide round two into four groups of three. The leaders went to the semifinals.

The method was inaugurated only in 1986 and was maintained until Qatar 2022. There have been many changes, as can be seen. But never had FIFA made such a big increase. It went from 13 to 16, then from 16 to 24 and from 24 to 32. By three and then by eight. In the United States, Canada and Mexico, there will be 16 more nations than in the current tournament.