Why, When, and How the FIFA World Cup Must Change

Men's World Cup trophy on display at draw of South American Qualifiers for Qatar 2022
Men's World Cup trophy on display at draw of South American Qualifiers for Qatar 2022

The 2030 finals will represent the centennial year for the FIFA World Cup. There was a break in the schedule for World War II. However, that still means it will be 100 years since that very first tournament was held in Uruguay in 1930.

Current FIFA chief Gianni Infantino has already begun testing the water with regard to converting the tournament to a twice-as-frequent every two year schedule. He further proposes to conjoin the women's and men's competitions.

If adopted, these would be big changes. But are they big enough to accomplish Infantino's suggestion that they would "give [non-Europeans] more hope"?

After the opening game of the African Nations Championship, FIFA President Gianni Infantino explained how the tournament will give hope to countries around the world. And shared his thoughts on COVID-19’s impact on global football.📽️👉…

Maybe, but likely the best way to put more "world" in the World Cup might be to change it altogether!

What's Wrong With the FIFA World Cup?

FIFA Pres. G. Infantino
FIFA Pres. G. Infantino

The current shape of the tournament is archaic and in need of drastic revision. Mainly, the concept of a singular host nation(s) is completely outdated. Some of the previous versions had two nations acting as co-hosts. Indeed, in 2026 Canada, USA, and Mexico are all set to share hosting duties.

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The next step would be to reconfigure the competition to be more of an ongoing qualifying tournament. That's how UEFA’s Champions League and the Nations League operate.

Thus there would be no month-long quadrennial finals competition. Rather, the finals will be played out over a longer period and across several venues. The final match (perhaps semifinals and finals) would be played at a pre-determined site.

UEFA has changed its own quadrennial European Championship (Euros) competition to encompass the Nations League qualifying for FIFA's tournament. This is simply because the physical restrictions on travel and language which existed in the past (ca. 1930 for example) are no longer at issue.

Beyond logistics, spreading the tournament out over a longer period would allow more nations to act as “hosts”. They would, thereby, become a greater part of the spectacle.

This will generate more exciting and significant matches and will likely promote more ticket sales for qualifying matches. It would also create opportunities for more fans to attend group matches. In turn, that ought to encourage deeper fan involvement with more national teams.

Fans will no doubt embrace the opportunity to attend matches that mean something beyond international friendlies. That would no doubt include games where their own nation might not even be competing. All of which will most likely produce a greater sense of inclusion, which is Infantino's stated desire for the future of FIFA's big show.

As things stand presently, when most people think of the World Cup they are thinking of the World Cup Finals. By that they mean the the month-long competition we enjoy every fourth summer.

This quadrennial tournament has become a giant economic boon/burden to whichever nation it is awarded. As a result, there is a great temptation to politicize the process. The long-term effects of this have been very bad for the reputation of the game.

The recently concluded prosecution of FIFA has disaffected many fans worldwide. Indeed, the obvious and inherent unfairness of the World Cup awarding process ought to be testament enough to the need for change.

And what better time in life to change than on one’s 100th birthday?

Edited by Shardul Sant


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