2015 was a tough year for FIFA, long standing allegations of corruption within the organisation finally came to light exposing the truth behind the beautiful game and its dirtiest and darkest secrets. Corruption was rife at the highest level and it was finally exposed. In the wake of destruction, the world and sponsor's alike called for it to be cleaned up, from top to bottom and for Sepp Blatter to resign with immediate affect, he did so but under protest.
Gianni Infantino was elected to become the new president of FIFA, and in doing so became the first Italian to hold the position (He has dual nationality with Switzerland) in order to win his election campaign, Infantino promised to expand the World Cup if elected and today, he has fulfilled that promise. The FIFA council have met today in Zurich to vote on the tournament expansion and the council unanimously approved the expansion. Moving it from 32 teams to 48 teams from 2026. So how will this work?
The format will now be 16 groups of 3 teams, with the top 2 qualifying for the knockout rounds. If a game in a group stage finishes as a draw a penalty shoot out is required to determine a winner, thus avoiding teams playing defensively and for a draw and trying to tactically eliminate opponents in the groups. This was a major worry at Euro 2016 where the tournament was expanded and teams who finished third could still qualify with one win as a best placed third team, the penalty shoot out should subsequently stop this from happening and diluting the quality of the football.
In terms of qualifying for tournament itself the additional spaces available mean that countries from Africa and Asia were strongly in favour of the expansion as were the Oceania teams. This is the reason why.
With the expansion, Dependant on the host nation which is yet to be decided, here is who could be allocated what extra positions at the tournament. Africa and Asia could each see 4.5 more spaces allocated to them in the finals tournament (the half being a play off between the two continents) Oceania could receive a further 2 places, North and Central America 1 further place, south America 1 additional place and Europe another 3 places.
However this is not confirmed by FIFA just yet, but that's a general idea of how each qualifying zone could be given additional places at the show piece tournament. This will be heavily influenced by the host nation. The groups themselves will obviously still have the seeded teams so it is unlikely that you will have one group containing Spain, Brazil and Chile and another containing Scotland, Cameroon and Japan.
So what other positives are there? Well this expansion also means there will now be 80 group games in total, 16 more than currently allowing you to indulge in even more football and giving you further reason not to have to leave the house. With more games, means more stadiums for the host nation, this could be a positive for England being a host for the tournament for the first time since 1966, however due to FIFA's rotation policy and nations from Europe wouldn't be able to bid until at least 2030, but if England do in 2030, we would have our best chance yet of winning the vote to host the World Cup again.
The infrastructure that is already in place in our stadia is arguably the best in the world. Due to FIFA regulations on attendances for stadiums, below is a list of stadiums that could host games.
Wembley Stadium - 90,000
Old Trafford - 75,957
Emirates Stadium - 60,355
St. James Park - 52,387
Anfield - 54,167
Olympic Stadium - 60,000
Etihad Stadium - 55,097
Stadium of Light - 49,000
Don't forget, there are also plans for new stadiums to be developed for some more teams in the Premier League which would see an increase in capacity and match day facilities which could also be used during the tournament.
Tottenham Hotspurs - New name not yet decided (2018-2019 season) - 61,000
Chelsea's Stamford Bridge - 60,000
Everton - New name not yet decided - 50,000
The country's infrastructure and transport links are also some of the best in the world, which would be seen as a positive for travelling supporters. The overwhelming favourite for the 2026 World Cup is from the USA, possibly in conjunction with Mexico or Canada. Colombia also have a confirmed bid to host the tournament.
There is also positives from the view of some of the smaller nations, nations who may never have qualified for the tournament before, the additional places will now allow them have a greater chance of qualifying for the tournament and when they are there the players are then exposed to the watching world and any potential watching scouts. This could lead to a move to one of the top leagues, increasing the strength of that league.
I have sifted through all the fall out from the event and picked out the main points but ultimately, there is one point that you cannot escape from and that is that with the expansion comes more revenue for FIFA. It has projected that with the 48 team expansion confirmed, revenue would soar to £5.3 billion, a rise of £521 million in profit on the current format, is this the same old FIFA rearing its ugly head again as soon as the scent of money is in the air? or is this being done for the love of the game and to increase participation and develop smaller nations to help them become more competitive? only time will tell.
I believe that this expansion could be a good thing for the sport, trial it and if it doesn't work the scrap it, although it does mean that there will be 16 more teams that could possibly eliminate England.
What do you make of the changes? Let us know in the comments below!