August 12, 2022

Football bosses who plan to shake up the 2026 World Cup format with nearly DOUBLE the number of games in a daunting schedule

WORLD CUP chiefs are discussing changing the format for the 2026 tournament which means the winners would have to play EIGHT games.

Organizers fear the plan for 16 three-team groups in the expanded 48-nation event could see unofficial deals made in the final match to ensure both sides go through.


Fifa President Gianni Infantino and Vice President Vittorio Montagliani pose with the trophy at Radio City in New York ahead of possible format changesCredit: EPA

Previous suggestions to avoid this included penalty shootouts for an extra point after drawn group matches.

Offering group winners the temptation of “home field advantage” so they avoid traveling between venues is another option.

But now senior officials are discussing splitting the qualifiers into 12 groups of four teams for the initial phase.

The top two from each group, along with the eight best third-placed teams, would advance to the knockout stages.


Still, that would mean 104 games – down from the planned 64 games for Qatar 2022 – and the finalists would have to play eight games instead of seven.

Fifa insists that plan is not on the agenda at this stage, but SunSport have been told the idea is gaining momentum.

Still, that would risk clashing with clubs who are already complaining that seven-match tournaments put too much pressure on their players.

It would also mean the World Cup would last at least 35 days, up from 28 days this winter.

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GARETH SOUTHGATE and Wales boss Robert Page have both made optional visits to Doha this week – to ensure their World Cup plans are on track.

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Three Lions chief Gareth Southgate came for a one-on-one in DohaCredit: Alamy

The coaches did not have to attend the Fifa technical workshop, which took place in the Qatari capital after they met in the April draw.

But Southgate and Page accompanied their media and medical representatives, with the England boss reportedly touring the team hotel, training base and all three group stage stadiums.

Their visits came as Fifa announced the opening of the sales window for the final batch of 1.2 million tickets for November.

Fans can now purchase up to six seats per match, with three price brackets available, and 60 across the tournament. The window closes on August 16 and tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis.


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