January 10, 2017

It's the end of the World Cup as we know it: The FIFA Council made it official, unanimously approving an expansion of the menís World Cup field. Starting in 2026, the field will increase from 32 to 48 teams. There will be 16 groups of 3 teams, with the top two finishers in each group advancing to a 32-team knockout stage.

posted by bender to soccer at 04:12 PM - 20 comments

""This football promotion, in many parts of the world where today they have no chance to play [at the World Cup], was at the top of our thoughts."

According to Fifa research, revenue is predicted to increase to 5.29bn for a 48-team tournament, giving a potential profit rise of 521m."

Those sentences are back-to-back in the story on the BBC, who aren't saying, they're just saying...

posted by Mr Bismarck at 04:22 PM on January 10

I can live with having less panic about the U.S. not making the World Cup.

But three team group divisions in which two advance? That takes a lot of drama out of that stage.

I also am concerned for my marriage. I watch a lot of the World Cup already, to the detriment of all else.

posted by rcade at 05:09 PM on January 10

I suppose it is worth noting that the tournament field has only been 32 since 1998. The current format just seems so good, though, and I agree that 3-team groups sound a lot less compelling.

I do not like the fact that this makes qualification a slam dunk for the US. Currently, WCQ matches are exciting and interesting and accessible here at home. I don't want to lose that, and the downgrade in importance may also hurt team development.

I also am concerned for my marriage. I watch a lot of the World Cup already, to the detriment of all else.

I'm with you, though it's a bit surprising that adding 16 teams would only add 16 matches and keep the same amount of time on the calendar. Think of it this way, there's probably 16 snoozers in group play that you can forego so that you can add in the round of 32 without watching more games!

posted by bender at 05:39 PM on January 10

I do not like the fact that this makes qualification a slam dunk for the US.

It already is. Three and a half places for CONCACAF. You should make it every time. Try being an African or Asian nation.

posted by owlhouse at 07:53 PM on January 10

The U.S. is pretty good at making qualification scary.

posted by rcade at 08:12 PM on January 10

So what happens when a group ends up with three 1-1 teams who each won 1-0 and lost 0-1?

posted by Etrigan at 08:21 PM on January 10

I'm guessing penalty kicks.

posted by LionIndex at 08:39 PM on January 10

It's possible for four team groups to end up all square, too. It looks like "drawing of lots" is your answer.

The rules from Brazil 2014:

The league format shall be used: each team playing one match against each of the other teams in the same group, with three points for a win, one point for a draw and none for a defeat.The ranking of each team in each group shall be determined as follows:

a) greatest number of points obtained in all group matches;

b) goal difference in all group matches;

c) greatest number of goals scored in all group matches.

If two or more teams are equal on the basis of the above three criteria, their rankings shall be determined as follows:

d) greatest number of points obtained in the group matches between the

teams concerned;

e) goal difference resulting from the group matches between the teams

concerned;

f) greater number of goals scored in all group matches between the teams

concerned;

g) drawing of lots by the FIFA Organizing Committee.

posted by owlhouse at 08:51 PM on January 10

It already is. Three and a half places for CONCACAF. You should make it every time.

I agree that we should make it every time, but at least the margin for error is small enough that it remains interesting. With 6 teams getting through, there is effectively no chance that the US doesn't qualify. Even Canada is going to qualify for the World Cup someday.

posted by bender at 09:05 PM on January 10

In the 1990 world cup the Irish and Dutch ended up dead level with three draws from three games and two goals for and against, so they drew lots.

The luck of the Irish won which sent the Dutch into the second round against arch-rivals Germany.

At the time, various European countries limited the number of foreign players on domestic teams to three. As a result, Inter Milan had three Germans, (Matthaus, Brehme and Klinsmann) and AC Milan had three Dutch players (Gullit, van Basten and Rijkaard) and the game was in the San Siro in Milan, which added some extra spice.

This is the game where German forward Rudi Voller and Rijkaard were both red carded for, among other things, repeatedly spitting on each other. Germany ended up winning 2-1.

The Irish ended up facing Romania which was a big deal for our family as most of them are from Cork and this was Ireland's first world cup. The game was pretty good despite ending up 0-0 and then 0-0 at the end of extra time.

Then came the penalty shootout.

The deep V on the Romanian shirts is really something.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 10:00 PM on January 10

It's possible for four team groups to end up all square, too. It looks like "drawing of lots" is your answer.

It's harder for four teams to end up in a dead-tie than it is for three teams. The more teams (and intragroup games) you add, the less likely you end up with a "draw lots" possibility (unless every game ends in a 0-0 draw, in which case you declare the group a waste of time and let other teams move on instead).

posted by grum@work at 10:10 PM on January 10

Even Canada is going to qualify for the World Cup someday.

Hey! We've done it before!

The question is...will we ever score a goal?

Besides, some people think Canada's best chance of going back to the World Cup would be act as a co-host.

posted by grum@work at 10:21 PM on January 10

The view from Down Under. And for countries like Thailand.

posted by owlhouse at 12:25 AM on January 11

Without taking goals scored into account, there are 27 possible outcomes in a group of 3 (3 games ending in 3 outcomes win, lose or draw) and 729 possible outcomes in a group of 4 (6 games, 3 outcomes). In the 3 team group, there are 3 ways in which all teams can be tied and 3 ways in which 2 teams can be tied for second place. This gives a 22% chance of needing some form of tiebreaker (6/27). In the 4 team group, there are 7 ways all teams would be tied, 20 ways 3 teams are tied for first, 12 ways 3 teams are tied for second, and 168 ways 2 teams will tie for second. This gives a 28% chance of needing some tiebreaker (207/729).

So it seems more likely to end up in the drawing of lots with 4 teams than 3. Of course this doesn't take into account that some teams will be more likely to win than others. And there are other possibilities when the top two teams tie where you would need to figure out which team comes out first and which comes out second.

posted by Ricardo at 02:53 PM on January 11

I can live with having less panic about the U.S. not making the World Cup.

It shouldn't be that difficult for the USA! USA! USA! if the proposed breakdown goes through: 6.5 spots for CONCACAF (out of 35 current full members). Likely would mean the Round of 12 would continue as two 6-team groups with top 3 in both advancing and fourth-place teams playing off to enter WC playoff.

Another proposal would be that any group-stage draw would go to (immediate?) penalties.

posted by jjzucal at 08:34 PM on January 11

I hate penalties. I sometimes entertain the idea that shots on goal should be tracked on the scoreboard and be a tiebreaker.

posted by rcade at 12:07 PM on January 12

Penalties are amazing. Whenever a game I'm neutral about gets near to 90 minutes I fervently hope for an evenly-spread number of goals in extra time so I can watch people crack under pressure on live television.

Yes, I'm looking at you, Zaza, (among very illustrious others).

posted by Mr Bismarck at 12:56 PM on January 12

I remember, many years ago, a South American under-21 tourney was decided by the amount of corners taken by each team...

I believe this only applied to the finals and actually, if I remember correctly, one of the teams won, so there was no need to use this tie-breaker.

I believe this makes it for a more exciting game; very often in over-time, teams are so tired they are just killing time waiting for the shoot-out.

And the pk's are pretty much like a flip of a coin, anyway.... Nerve-racking to watch, but not very fair, IMO

posted by gloglu at 01:08 PM on January 12

In junior tournaments in Australia, often held on one day with shortened matches, drawn matches were decided on corners, and if corners were equal, then by the number of goal kicks "won". I refereed a lot of these, too, and keeping my notebook up to date was always a challenge.

posted by owlhouse at 09:30 PM on January 12

Someone on reddit didthemath and came up with the odds of a 48 team World Cup resulting in situations where the last game of the first round might lead to teams conspiring to draw (a biscotto in sah-KER parlance).

posted by yerfatma at 10:27 AM on January 13

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