According to FIFA’s chief of global football, Arsene Wenger, the expanded 2026 World Cup may not definitely feature three-team groups due to criticism of the proposed revisions.
The FIFA Council voted in January 2017 to increase the number of teams competing in the World Cup finals from 32 to 48, with the inaugural tournament under the new format planned to take place in four years across the United States, Mexico, and Canada.
FIFA previously stated that the new system would consist of 16 groups of three teams, with the top two from each group advancing to a 32-team knockout stage, however that idea has lately been criticized again.
Several thrilling group-stage finales at the current tournament in Qatar, in which Japan and South Korea advanced under dramatic circumstances and the potential of Poland and Mexico being separated due to their disciplinary records arose, have prompted calls to scrap the strategy.
The current idea would put an end to groups being decided by simultaneous matches on matchday three, but Wenger has hinted that the format may be changed.
“This is not decided,” Wenger remarked on Sunday, “but it will be 16 groups of three, 12 groups of four, or two sides of six groups of four, as if you were organizing two 24-team [tournaments].”
“I will not be able to make that decision; it will be made by the FIFA Council, and I believe it will be done within the next year.”
It was also reported earlier this week that FIFA was considering introducing group-stage penalty shoot-outs under the new system, with winning clubs receiving an extra point.
Earlier this year, sixteen cities were formally chosen to host games at the 2026 World Cup, with Vancouver, Toronto, Guadalajara, Monterrey, and Mexico City joining 11 locales throughout the United States.