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48 teams feature in World Cup 2026.
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FORMER national footballers Clayton Morris and Angus Eve have contrasting views on the decision by FIFA to increase the number of teams participating in the World Cup to 48 teams at the 2026 edition.

Yesterday, in Zurich, Switzerland FIFA members voted unanimously for the change from 32 to 48 teams. Since the World Cup began in 1930 the number of teams have increased throughout the years but the 16-team jump is the largest in the history of the tournament.

At the inaugural competition in 1930, 13 countries competed, while 16 lined up in 1934, 15 in 1938 and 13 in 1950. From 1954 to 1978, 16 teams participated in the top football tournament, before 24 teams battled for World Cup glory between 1982 and 1994. Since the 1998 edition 32 nations have played in the World Cup.

In the current format, the CONCACAF region has three and a half spots in the World Cup, but the increase in teams may see CONCACAF getting six and a half spots in the World Cup.

Former Trinidad and Tobago Strike Squad captain Clayton Morris likes the move by FIFA to expand the tournament. He said, “I think it is a good incentive because every player’s dream is to play in a World Cup. They are giving everybody the opportunity to aspire to the highest level. “ Morris believes more countries will be driven to qualify for the World Cup.

“Other countries which at the moment may be lower than T&T in the FIFA standings would be all excited just as we are, which means they would step up their preparation, I know everybody would want to be on that stage so that makes it even tougher for us to get there and to maintain our level above them.”

Asked if the standard of the World Cup will drop with more teams participating Morris explained, “It all depends on the domestic leagues in the different countries, if they keep to that (high) level I can’t see the World Cup standard dropping because that is what everybody would be aspiring to meet.”

Morris hopes the next generation of players would be inspired to became footballers and play at the World Cup. The former Strike Squad captain stated that with the increase in teams T&T should qualify for every World Cup from 2026 if proper planning is implemented like CONCACAF giants such as Mexcio, USA and Costa Rica.

Eve does not agree with the decision by FIFA. Eve stated, “I think it is kind of ridiculous, the players have so much football to play right now in respective clubs.

It tends to waterdown the tournament because by the time they reach the World Cup most of the players are usually tired by that time, the better players.” Eve, who believes it is a money making initiative by FIFA, said if more teams participate at the World Cup some of the countries will not be able to compete with the top football nations.

“To me the World Cup is a showpiece, you don’t want to waterdown something like that, it is every four years just as the Olympics. There is a qualifying mark that you have to get if you have to run in the Olympics so the standard of competitiveness is always maintained.

“I don’t think six CONCACAF teams could compete in a World Cup, I don’t think six African teams could compete in a World Cup. You are looking for the best teams to play so the competition would be competitive.”

Eve believes there is talent in T&T to qualify for future World Cups but the problem lies at the administrative level. “From what I am seeing from T&T, I think we definitely have ability, I think we have young players with a lot of ability and they are getting good experience on the outside (foreign leagues), but I have always said that our problem in T&T is administrative.”

RELATED NEWS

John Williams: More teams at W/Cup positive.
T&T Guardian Reports.


The decision by the world governing body for football-FIFA, to expand the amount of teams in the World Cup to 48 has been described as a positive move for T&T, said David John-Williams, the T&T Football Association president. Former FIFA vice president Jack Warner, has however described it as foolish.

The FIFA Council unanimously decided in favour of expanding the World Cup to a 48-team competition as of 2026, following a third meeting of football’s supervisory and strategic body at the Home of FIFA in Zurich, Switzerland on January 9th and 10th. From the new format, the 48 national teams will be split into 16 groups of three, and the top two will advance to a 32-team knockout stage.

A report yesterday stated that the new 48-team format has been drawn up in such a way that there is no reduction in the overall number of rest days and a guaranteed maximum of seven matches for the teams reaching the final, while the current 32-day tournament duration is kept, so as not to increase the length of time for which clubs have to release their players.

Yesterday, John Williams said he found the change to be very interesting and positive, noting he will now look forward to what will be the allocation of teams for the Concacaf region, as well as the qualifying format.

The changes also include a merger of the CONMEBOL and the CONCACAF- the Confederation of North America, Central American and the Caribbean Football Federations.

CONMEBOL currently has four-and-a-half places for its 10 members, while CONCACAF has 35 FIFA members battling for three-and-a-half places. The local football boss refused to comment on whether he feels the merger will make it even more difficult for T&T to qualify for the World Cup, as it could face the mights or Brazil, Argentina, Uraguay, Paraguay, Chile and other top South Amnerica nations, as well as what the top teams from the CONCACAF, such as Costa Rica, USA, Mexico and Honduras among others.

According to John Williams, “We will just have to wait and see what the qualifying format will be like. I do not want to speculate what it will be, but what I do know is that we will definitely have to improve our performances on the field.” T&T are currently second from bottom in the CONCACAF qualifiers having lost both opening matches of the Final Round to Costa Rica 2-0 at home and Honduras 3-1 in San Pedro Sula.

Meanwhile, Warner believes it was foolish to expand the amount of teams in the World Cup, saying attempts should have been made to provide assistance to the weaker footballing nations first.

Warner who had provided a presence in world football’s decision-making for smaller Caribbean Football Union countries, said such a decision could not have been accepted had he been there, as he believes it will destroy the CFU. He described the decision as political.

According to Warner he cannot see any country that can host a World Cup tournament of 48 teams.

The decision came following a thorough analysis, based on a report that included four different format options, namely sporting balance, competition quality, impact on football development, infrastructure, projections on financial position and the consequences for event delivery.

The Council is set to discuss further details regarding the competition, including the slot allocation per confederation at its next meeting.

FIFA's new 48-team format means we could see Tahiti vs Curacao! Welcome to the 2026 World Cup.
By Martin Samuel (dailymail.co.uk)


With the certainty of night following day, the members of the FIFA council voted through their wallets for a 48-team World Cup from 2026.

And now the fun begins. For the downside is not the 48th best team in the world lowering the standards at what should always be a globally representative, but elite, competition; it is the 148th.

Tahiti. The 148th-strongest team in the world but, if qualification reflected the FIFA rankings, one that could soon be a play-off away from the World Cup finals, as runners-up in the Oceania confederation. FIFA did not vote on the precise composition of their monster — let's call it the FrankenCup — because they prefer to eke out the nasty surprises, like all good horror auteurs.

But the clever money is on 16 for UEFA, nine from Africa, 8.5 from Asia, 6.5 for North and South America respectively and 1.5 for Oceania. The fractions represent play-off matches, so the lowliest qualifiers from Asia, North America, South America and Oceania would compete for two spots. And that would leave the door open for Oceania's second strongest to qualify: Tahiti.

This is not to dismiss their hard work or improvement. In 2012, Tahiti became the first country other than Australia or New Zealand to win the OFC Nations Cup — although Australia had decided they were Asian by then, so Tahiti's cup run consisted of two matches with New Caledonia and fixtures against Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and Samoa.

They then went, by right, to the 2013 Confederations Cup, where they charmed everybody by showing tremendous spirit despite leaking 24 goals in three matches. They even scored in a 6-1 defeat by Nigeria.

And that is meritocracy in action. Tahiti were Oceania's champions. They deserved their place in Brazil just as Auckland City, Oceania's club champions, deserved their entry to the 2016 Club World Cup.

Yet what FIFA's council did on Tuesday went too far. A quarter of the planet is not a finals. Tahiti, as Oceania's second best, could end up playing the ninth strongest team in Asia — currently Qatar, 87 in the world, according to the rankings — for a place in the World Cup; or the seventh best team in North America, Curacao, ranked joint 75th. Tahiti versus Curacao. This is not a fixture that shouts elite competition. This is a holiday dilemma for windsurfers.

And it is an elite competition, the World Cup finals. The clue is in the word 'finals'. The idea that expansion is a noble aim because it gives everybody a go betrays the essence of the tournament. Yes, the World Cup should be open to all. But it is. Everybody competes from San Marino to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. But when it gets down to those late stages it should be all about the best.

That is the point of a final, in football, athletics, or any event. Only seven sprinters get to stand on the start line with Usain Bolt, because heats and semi-finals narrow the field to the most outstanding. Yes, in the heats, inferiors get their turn. But not in the final. The final is about The Best.

While attaching that claim to their latest round of overblown awards as a rebranding exercise, FIFA are ensuring the World Cup will be about the best no longer. It will welcome teams from outside the top 80, maybe the top 100, because this will guarantee more votes for president Gianni Infantino.

It will expand and expand, until China are almost certain to be in, because there is nothing FIFA love more than a dictatorship with a few quid. To argue that FIFA have not demeaned their competition is to argue that the athletes who ran a 48th best time of 10.36sec to Bolt's 9.81 had as much right to be on the start line for the Olympic 100metres final in Rio as he did.

We wish Solomon Bockarie, Vitor Hugo dos Santos and Zhang Peimeng well, but at some stage we want to see only Bolt and his genuine challengers in those eight lanes.

In 2018, there will be 14 from UEFA — including Russia as hosts — five from Africa, 4.5 from Asia and South America, 3.5 from North America and 0.5 from Oceania. It is easy to see where FIFA president Infantino is now targeting votes. Asian participation doubles despite not getting a team out of the group stage in 2014.

North America also does well having put one country in the quarter-finals since 2002, while Africa goes up from five to nine, despite providing just six of 80 knockout places in the World Cup's last five editions — including the first tournament to be held on the African continent.

In this, Infantino is no different from Sepp Blatter. He picks off confederations with glorified bribes — in this case the promise of £5.29billion in revenue and a berth at the big one even if, like China, you happen to be the 82nd best team in the world.

And this is all before we consider the travesty of the three-team group, with two progressing, which no amount of artificial rendering can overcome. The format is simple: A versus B, A versus C, B versus C. So if B and C beat A, then game three, B versus C, is a dead rubber.

And with 16 groups, there could be plenty of them. Equally, if A beats B, C beats A, then B beats C, all teams have three points. With so few matches, goal difference or goals scored might be level, too.

There is the potential for confusion on a par with Albania having to hang around at Euro 2016 only to be eliminated three days after their last game, when the third-place shake-up was calculated. Games might be decided on the toss of a coin, or a countback to qualification records. And first or second won't matter because the random nature of an overblown tournament will make knockout seeding irrelevant. In this case, three is certainly no magic number.

Already, tied games will require penalty shootouts in a bid to halt collaboration, meaning mediocre teams — and there will be plenty more of them from 2026 — can progress by playing for penalties. Anyone who saw Steaua Bucharest use that tactic to overcome Barcelona in the 1986 European Cup final will know how stultifying it can be.

'The more the merrier,' said Amaju Pinnick, president of the Nigerian Football Association. But it wasn't merry at the European Championship this summer. It was a dull, low- scoring tournament, played on the counter-attack, or between workmanlike, massed defences, the quality diluted by a bloated 24-team format. Yet as FIFA have now proved, that was only the half of it.

HOW THE NEW FORMAT WILL WORK AT THE 2026 WORLD CUP

Q: How will the group stages look?

Every team play twice in their three-team group. The top two advance to the last 32, when the knockout stages begin. Group matches ending in a draw could be decided by a penalty shootout to stop any final-game collusion.

Q: What other impact will 48 teams have?

More teams means more games. Eighty matches will take place, as opposed to the current 64. However, if a team reach the final, they will have played a total of seven matches, the same total as the current format.

Q: Where will the 2026 World Cup be held?

Not known yet, but the United States are expected to make an offer. They could be sole bidders, or come forward with a joint proposal alongside Mexico or Canada.

Q: Why did FIFA want the World Cup expanded?

Infantino vowed to increase the number of teams when he was campaigning to replace Sepp Blatter. His proposal appealed to a lot of the 211 FIFA members, many of whom do not normally qualify. Confederations outside Europe have felt disadvantaged for many years.

Q: When was the last time the World Cup was revamped?

Its inception in 1930 saw 13 countries take part. Only 16 qualified for the finals until the 1982 edition in Spain, where 24 teams competed. The current format of 32 teams has been used since the 1998 tournament in France.

Q: Who would get the extra 16 World Cup spots?

Yet to be confirmed.

One proposal could see Europe's allocation rising from 13 to 16 teams with Africa the biggest beneficiaries gaining an extra four places to nine. Asia would get 8.5 places, North and South America 6.5 each and Oceania 1.5. The half-places represent play-off spots, with the lowest qualifiers from Asia, North America, South America and Oceania battling for two places.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino said: 'Confederations all have wishlists in terms of how many slots they would like. Discussions are going to take place but nothing is decided.'