Gianni “Not Indicted Yet” Infantino’s first wish as THIEFA president has been granted: the 2026 World Cup will involve 48 teams.
Mark it down. This is the beginning of the end of the World Cup as the world’s ultimate sporting trophy.
Don’t get me wrong, I like that we should see more teams like Ireland, Nigeria, Scotland and other places that create some incredible soccer talent yet never get the chance to showcase it on the highest stage (here’s to you, Wales!). Many of those countries have rich heritages in the sport, plus great fanbases who should make what’s already an incredible mix of cultures even richer.
But this isn’t about making sure that tomorrow’s Ryan Giggs or George Weah get the chance. This is about patronage.
This is proof that what was vile about THIEFA under Sepp Blatter is just as distasteful without him.
Blatter maintained his power by paying off FIFA’s smallest countries. A bunch of (generally smaller) countries suddenly get a shot at the biggest prize in the sport…. sound familiar?
If that wasn’t enough
Beyond that, is anyone truly excited that 6.5 CONCACAF teams could make the cut? Yes, our conference shined in 2014. But no one is drooling to see TnT take the field at the World Cup. Well, except maybe for Jack Warner.
So this plan waters down the quality of play (see Euro 2016).
But, wait! Infantino has an idea!
With 16 groups of three, draws just won’t do. To quote the great Welsh soothsayer Bob Bradley, “We’re goin’ to PKs!” Yes, we could now use penalties to decide opening-round games.
In case that’s too much for you, The Mighty Infantino has suggested that your FIFA ranking may serve as a tie-breaker. Because, you know, “drawing of lots” is already on the books.
THIEFA giveth, THIEFA taketh away
This last point is, in a roundabout way, sort of a positive one. With a 48-team tournament, how many countries around the world can truly host it?
Hopefully, that means an end to Blatter’s shenanigans of sending World Cups to countries that weren’t prepared and couldn’t truly be prepared to host. No more defrauding poor nations just to host a tournament there. No more creating ridiculous stadiums in places where they will be left to rot in a month’s time. No more slave labor to build said ridiculous stadiums. At least that’s the idea, right?
Of course, the downside is that future tournaments will probably be limited to little more than a handful of countries in Europe, and at best two or three per other continents.
What do you think? You like the new World Cup plan? Hate it? Let us know. And watch us tonight on YouTube, where we’ll discuss the plan further.