Money has trumped quality in soccer’s worldwide showcase.
On Tuesday FIFA announced that the World Cup will expand from 32 to 48 nations in 2026. 80 matches, as compared to 64, may translate into $1 billion in additional broadcasting and sponsorship revenue. It may also translate into a poorer product.
I am shocked at how upset some people are about this news. It is going to mean that some World Cup games will be contested by players that are less skilled. However, we have seen it in other sports. In 2012 Major League Baseball added a wildcard team. (Apparently 162 games in the regular season weren’t enough). In 1990 the NFL added a second wild card team to its playoffs. These decisions are based on money. So was the decision by FIFA.
The early games of the 2026 World Cup will be watered down a bit, but in the end soccer’s powerhouses will still emerge victorious.