DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The next World Cup will be the biggest ever after world soccer body FIFA took the leap from a 32-team field to 48 teams in 2026.
It means more of soccer’s so-called “little teams” that didn’t make it to Qatar will be given a chance of a lifetime when the tournament is hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico.
That could be great news for everyone who was entertained by Saudi Arabia’s stirring upset of Lionel Messi’s Argentina at this World Cup, Japan’s two wins over former champions Germany and Spain or Morocco’s humbling of star studded Belgium and Spain on its way to an unexpected quarterfinal run. More surprises surely await in four years.
Still, it’s not clear to everyone that bigger is better.
While 48 teams might increase the chances of fairytale moments such as Saudi Arabia’s 2-1 win over Argentina in the group stage, there’s also a good chance of the opposite: more one-sided games that may take some of the shine off a tournament that is meant to be the best vs. the best.
Spain 7, Costarica 0 also happened at this World Cup. As did England’s 6-2 rout of Itan, France’s 4-1 dismantling of Australia and Qatar becoming the first host country to lose its three group stage matches, FIFA will need to dig even deeper into the lower levels of international soccer to get from 32 to 48.