La Liga unhappy with FIFA after changes to tournament formats

The expanded 2026 men´s World Cup in North America will start with 12 groups of four teams

By Web Desk
March 15, 2023
FIFA´s original plan for 2026, when the World Cup will be held in the United States, Canada and Mexico, was for 16 groups of three team — AFP

Spain’s top league La Liga believes that FIFA has shown "complete disregard" for the importance of national competitions after a 32-team Club World Cup as well as an expanded World Cup was approved by the game’s governing body.

The expanded 2026 men´s World Cup in North America will start with 12 groups of four teams, a change from the original planned format of 16 groups of three, football´s world governing body FIFA announced on Tuesday.

It means that there will be 104 matches played, a huge increase on the 64 games at last year´s tournament.

"FIFA continues its malpractice of making unilateral decisions on the world football calendar, showing complete disregard for the importance of national championships, and the football community in general," LaLiga said in a statement on Tuesday.

"FIFA completely neglects the economic damage these decisions inflict on leagues around the world. Leagues were not consulted about any of the changes presented today, especially about the new annual club competition...

"These decisions do not take into account the competitive, sporting and economic impact on national leagues, clubs and players, by further cramming an already overloaded schedule. FIFA only takes into account a small group of clubs and players..."

FIFA´s original plan for 2026, when the World Cup will be held in the United States, Canada and Mexico, was for 16 groups of three teams, from which the top two would advance to a last 32.

The new decided format means the top two in each group will go through to the knockout round along with the eight best third-placed sides.

As a result, the finalists, and the teams finishing third and fourth, will play a total of eight games instead of the current seven.

The decision comes after a dramatic group stage at the tournament in Qatar convinced FIFA that a rethink was needed.

"The groups of four have been absolutely incredible until the last minute of the last match," FIFA president Gianni Infantino said in December.

Tuesday´s decision was announced following a FIFA Council meeting in the Rwandan capital Kigali, at which it confirmed the next men´s World Cup final will be played on Sunday, July 19, 2026.

Infantino is expected to be waved in for a new four-year term as president as he stands unopposed for re-election at Thursday´s FIFA Congress.

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