The new format for the World Cup has a flaw that could encourage collusion among teams

Valeriano Di Domenico/Getty ImagesFIFA President Gianni Infantino has been a major proponent of a 48-team World Cup.
  • The controversial decision by FIFA to increase the World Cup to 48 teams comes with a new format that could encourage nations to help each other out.
  • FIFA is aware of this problem and has considered banning draws during the group stage, but that is not likely to be much of a deterrent.
  • Collusion has been alleged at the World Cup before, most famously in the “Disgrace of Gijón,” which led to changes to the World Cup group stage.

FIFA is planning on expanding the World Cup from 32 teams to 48 teams, possibly as soon as 2022, a move that would make FIFA a lot more money.

The idea of a 48-team World Cup has already proven to be controversial, due to concerns that the increased number of teams will likely dilute the quality of soccer.

And writing in the New York Times, Julien Guyon raised another critical concern: that the new format for the World Cup group will increase the incentive for teams to help each other and play to a mutually beneficial result during the World Cup group stage.

“In many cases, the two teams playing the last game in the group will know exactly what results will let them both advance to the knockout stage – at the expense of the third team of the group,” Guyon wrote of the new format.

FIFA is said to be aware of this possibility and has even considered banning draws during group stage matches to counter this problem.

However, Guyon writes, “According to my calculations, banning draws would indeed decrease the risk of collusion, but not by much . . . The probability that at least one group faces suspicion of collusion would still be very high.”

Collusion is not unheard of at the World Cup, as Guyon notes, at the 1982 World Cup Austria and West Germany appeared to collude in a match that has since become known as the “Disgrace of Gijón.” Afterward, the World Cup group stage format was changed so that all the teams in a World Cup group played their last match at the same time.

So if FIFA does go through with a 48-team format for the 2022 World Cup, it sounds like there is a good chance that even more controversy will come to an event that is already mired in scandal.

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