The next World Cup will jump to 48 teams. Is bigger better?

DOHA, Qatar (AP) – Next World Championship World soccer body FIFA will be the largest since 2026, when it jumps from 32 teams to 48 teams.

This means that football’s “minor teams” who fail to qualify for Qatar will have the chance of a lifetime at the tournament in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

This could be great news for all those who were excited about Saudi Arabia’s frustration with Lionel Messi’s Argentina team. In this World Cup, Japan defeated former champion Germany twice and Spain or Morocco’s humiliation of star-studded Belgium and Spain en route to a surprise quarter-final. Four years later, more surprises await.

However, it is not always clear that bigger is better.

While the 48 teams will increase the chances of fairytale moments like Saudi Arabia’s 2-1 win over Argentina in the group stage, there are also more one-sided games. Aiming to be the best vs. the best.

Spain 7, Costa Rica 0 It happened in the World Cup too. England beat Iran 6:2France defeated Australia 4-1 and Qatar became the first host nation to lose three matches in the group stage. FIFA needs to delve deeper into the lower levels of international football from 32 to 48.

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“This means we have to find 16 more good teams,” said Arsene Wenger, FIFA’s head of global football development and a central figure in the implementation of the 48-team World Cup.

FIFA is still rolling out updates and expansions for the global game. There will be more slots on all continents and FIFA says the opening of the game to its 211 member countries or territories should have an impact beyond the teams, bringing more eyes to TV screens and more kids inspired to kick the ball around the world. .

“I believe that if teams, countries have more opportunities to go on the world stage, it will do a lot for the development (of football) within the country,” Wenger said.

Qatar’s World Cup is the first in the Middle East and FIFA has crossed the heart of the game in Europe and South America. This decision caused its strong criticism but the action on the pitch could be a timely advertisement for the 48-team plan FIFA announced in 2017 and has been forced to defend amid doubts about what the exact format will be.

In Qatar, Japan was one of three Asian teams to qualify for the Round of 16, a feat that had never happened before. African teams scored more points than ever before in the group stage. Morocco topped a group that included 2018 World Cup runners-up Croatia and semi-finalists Belgium and advanced to the quarter-finals with a penalty shootout win over Spain on Tuesday.. Cameroon beat Brazil For the first time, an African team defeated the five-time champion and the most famous football team in the World Cup.

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“Look at how the World Cup is going,” Senegal coach Aliou Cisse said. “It’s not like 30 years ago the big fish ate the little fish alive.”

“They underestimate Asia,” said winger Takefusa Kubo during Japan’s run in Qatar. Ghana coach Otto Addo said Africa deserved their extra places and his teams have a good chance of going further.

However, the expansion will not have much effect on the final outcome of the World Cup.

European and South American teams – the big fish Cisse – have already won each of the 21 World Cups, with 12 for Europe and nine for South America. In the 100-year history of the World Cup, no team from another continent has reached the final. 82 of the 84 semi-finalists are European or South American. The United States in 1930 and South Korea in 2002 are exceptions.

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While teams from outside Europe and South America have fared well in the group stage in Qatar, only Morocco has advanced to the quarter-finals, where they will face Portugal on Saturday. South Korea, Japan, Senegal, USA and Australia lost in the 1/8 finals.

Cisse’s Senegal team are the African champions, but England won 3-0. Brazil beat South Korea, which is ranked 3rd in Asia, 4:1. “Look at their players,” South Korean striker Son Hyun-min, one of his country’s stars, said enviously.

A bigger World Cup offers clear development opportunities for FIFA.

According to FIFA, the 2018 World Cup in Russia was watched by just over 3.5 billion people, more than half the world’s population, and the soccer body made a record $7.5 billion in revenue. From commercial deals related to the World Cup in Qatar.

With these numbers from the 32-team tournament in the bank, 48 open the door to selling World Cup ambitions to more people in more places.

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AP Sports writer Ronald Bloom contributed to this report.

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AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports



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