The next FIFA World Cup in USA-Mexico-Canada is special: Here's why
The calendar says 1930 and the Los Angeles Olympics have already decided to not include football as it was not a popular sport in the USA back then. FIFA president Jules Rimet thus set about organising the inaugural World Cup tournament.
Cut to the date, present time two-time FIFA World Cup champions, Uruguay hosted the tournament with a total of 13 countries participating in it. Come to date a total of 32 countries after qualifying from their respective continents set the stage on fire. It’s amazing how There have been 21 FIFA World Cups so far and the Qatar 2022 will make it 22 and we have still seen only 8 Champions. A sport that is played in more than 200 countries always boils down to 32 for the mega event.
Qatar World Cup will be remembered for many off-field controversies, but the middle east will always remember it for the first ever Arab World Cup. Controversies looming around the 2022 World Cup may have garnered many eyes from Europe, South America, Africa and even Asia but the tournament has quietly made a place of its own.
While it may be first for the Arabs, but it will also be the last with a 32-team field. The 2026 tournament in US, Mexico and Canada is set to host a total of 48 countries. But will it reduce the credibility of the tournament? Or will the group stages see more one-sided games?
While football is often deemed as a global sport because of its mega popularity across continents, many countries fail to even qualify for the biggest stage. But the unpredictability of the game has seen many giants missing a berth due to its qualification scenarios. 4-time World Cup Champions and current Euro Champions, Italy have missed a spot for World Cup for the second time in a row. With teams like Saudi Arabia and Japan beating giants like Argentina and Germany in 2022 have surely proved why the game needs more nations for increasing its popularity. While the football World Cups have majorly been organised in either South America, Europe or America, the tradition finally changed when the 2002 World Cup was finally organised in Asia. With the barriers finally breaking and the tournament going global, the 48-team decision will bring more popularity for the beautiful sport.
The tournament will be jointly hosted by 16 cities in three North American countries: Canada, Mexico, and the United States. The tournament will open with a group stage consisting of 16 groups of three teams, with the top two teams progressing from each group to a knockout tournament starting with a round of 32 teams. The number of games played overall will increase from 64 to 80. Each team will play one fewer group match than under the previous format, compensating for the additional knockout round. Having already witnessed some of the major upsets in previous editions, it would be interesting to see how the 2026 World Cup pans out. With a greater number of teams participating, some smaller recognised football nation will look to set the stage on fire.