FIFA may row back on introduction of three-team groups for 2026 World Cup – Wenger

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The expanded 2026 World Cup may not necessarily feature three-team groups amid criticism of the proposed reforms, says FIFA’s chief of global football Arsene Wenger.

In January 2017, the FIFA Council voted to increase the number of teams participating in the World Cup finals from 32 to 48, with the first tournament under the new format set to take place across the United States, Mexico and Canada in four years’ time.

FIFA initially said the new format will contain 16 groups of three teams, with the top two in each advancing to a 32-team knockout stage, but that proposal has attracted renewed criticism recently.

Several thrilling group-stage finales at the current tournament in Qatar, where Japan and South Korea advanced in dramatic circumstances and the possibility of Poland and Mexico being separated via their disciplinary records emerged, have provoked calls to abandon the plan.

The existing proposal would see an end to groups being decided by simultaneous fixtures on matchday three, but Wenger has revealed the format could yet be altered.

“This is not decided, but it will be 16 groups of three, 12 groups of four, or two sides of six groups of four, like you organise two 24-team [tournaments],” Wenger said on Sunday.

“I will not be able to decide that, it will be decided by the FIFA Council, and I think it will be done in the next year.”

Earlier this week, it was also reported FIFA were considering the introduction of group-stage penalty shoot-outs under the new format, with winning teams being granted a bonus point.

Sixteen cities were officially selected to host games at the 2026 World Cup earlier this year, with Vancouver, Toronto, Guadalajara, Monterrey and Mexico City joining 11 locations across the USA.



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