The drama of the 2022 FIFA World Cup has led many to both question the merits of an expanded tournament in 2026, and also call out the problems of finding a suitable format for a 48-team competition.
This debate is not merely academic. At Twenty First Group, we are firm believers that the success of the sporting product drives commercial success. A World Cup that is poorly designed risks putting off fans, broadcasters, and sponsors.
We break the sporting success of the FIFA World Cup into three categories:
- Quality: fans want to see the best play the best
- Jeopardy: fans want genuine uncertainty of outcomes
- Connection: fans want to care about the narratives
Our Intelligence Engine can help evaluate how different formats deliver against each of these pillars. FIFA are contemplating two formats: 16 groups of 3 teams and 12 groups of 4 teams. We’ve also assessed a third: 8 groups of 6 teams in a Swiss-style fixture list (like the one to be used in the UEFA Champions League from 2024), where teams play just 3 opponents in their group. This format has the benefit of keeping a similar number of fixtures as option A, but avoiding the issues of potential collusion (analysed below).