FIFA is poised to announce a new World Cup format for the 2026 tournament.
The new proposals are set to extend the World Cup to 104 games taking place over 39 days.
As per The Athletic’s David Ornstein and Matt Slater, the decision will be approved during a meeting of the FIFA Council in Kigali, Rwanda.
Ornstein and Slater relay that, “The new format is for 12 groups of four, with the eight best third-placed teams joining the top two in the knockout rounds. This restores the jeopardy of the final round of group-stage games and reduces the chance of collusion.
“The extra week will be found by cutting the pre-tournament release period by a week from 23 days — slightly less than previous summer tournaments but twice as long as players were given to prepare for the World Cup in Qatar.
“Although the official date for the opening match has not yet been announced, FIFA is on course to maintain the tournament’s “footprint” to 57 days, with 39 days of competition.”
Maheta Molango, the CEO of the Professional Football Association revealed his concerns about the increased games and the impact it could have on players.
Molango urged decision-makers to undertake a reset of the entire football calendar.
“The expanded World Cup format being announced for 2026 means that, yet again, more games are being forced into an already overcrowded schedule.”
Molango’s concerns are shared by Manchester United defender Raphael Varane.
When Varane announced his retirement from international football, he attributed his decision to the difficulty in keeping fit as a result of the inconsiderate number of matches players are required to play in a season.
Varane opined that it was impossible to play for one’s club and country without being left bogged down by the consequent fatigue and tiredness.
Fans should also be forgiven for feeling skeptical about the imminent format.
Take the case of United for instance: the Red Devils have been fighting on all fronts this season. With the Carabao Cup already secured, United are still competing in the FA Cup, Premier League and the Carabao Cup.
Are increased games really necessary? Do they bring any positive value to players already struggling to refresh and be at their best for the next game?
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