FIFA’s plans for the 2026 World Cup are about to get even bigger, according to reports.
And that’s not just because it is taking place in North America.
The New York Times reports that football’s governing body has agreed to expand the tournament to include 48 different countries from around the world.
Each country will play at least three games in the new format, which will see them all split into 12 groups, with each group consisting of four teams respectively.
To make it even more complicated, the top two teams will advance to a round of 32, where they will be joined by the eight best third-placed teams before making it to the next stage of the competition.
It means the teams who reach the final – which will take place at the MetLife Stadium in New York – will have to play eight matches to become World Cup champions in July 2026.
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For context, that’s one extra match than the seven played by last year’s finalists, Argentina and France.
What’s more it also means that there will be 40 more matches than took place in Qatar in 2022.
Which, on the flip side, means more entertainment for the rest of us.
Now, doesn’t that sound like a good idea?
Well, not according to Virgil van Dijk.
The Liverpool defender recently called on authorities to look after the welfare of players amid a busy schedule which is becoming even more jam-packed with extra fixtures every passing year.
“In order to be ready for the World Cup, I wanted to play all the games at my club and that’s what I managed to do apart from one game,” he said in a study.
“As a footballer you want to play all the games that are ahead of you but the schedule is getting busier and busier. If you compare, for example, from previous years, it’s proven that it’s getting busier and busier.
“Speaking from our situation in the Premier League, the standard is so high and the games are so difficult. Demands are so high.
“Obviously, that’s what you want: you want to play at the highest level, but you have to be ready each and every game. I’m not the one that complains, because we are very blessed, we are very privileged, and I really realise that. But we have to look at the welfare of our players and also look forward to the future.”