FIFA Plans To Expand Men’s World Cup, Address Women’s Player
March 14, (THEWILL) – FIFA has announced plans to expand the men’s World Cup by 40 more matches, bringing the total number to 104, starting with the 2026 tournament in North America.
The decision to add matches will be finalised during a meeting of FIFA’s governing council in Kigali, Rwanda. The expansion allows FIFA to chase its target of over £9bn in revenue while also addressing format issues for the event, which is being co-hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Under the new format, 12 groups, each with four teams, will replace the current 16 groups, each with three teams. The top two teams in each group will advance to a round of 32, along with the eight best third-placed teams. Teams reaching the final will play eight matches, one more than the seven played by the finalists in the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
The final is scheduled for Sunday, July 19, 2026, and the pre-tournament availability of players and the World Cup itself will require 56 days, the same as the three World Cups before Qatar 2022. FIFA is already taking steps to address concerns about the workload on players by creating a new task force to oversee player rest periods. The task force, which will include medics, union officials, and football figures, will provide input to the process of restructuring the international match calendars.
In addition, FIFA is examining further protections for the welfare of female players, including setting out rights for female players on adoption, abortion, menstrual health, multiple births, breastfeeding, and childcare. New employment rules were introduced by FIFA in 2021, mandating clubs to allow players at least 14 weeks of maternity leave paid at a minimum of two-thirds of their salary.