FIFA’s mission to expand the World Cup will only damage it

With 166 member nations of FIFA voting to explore the concept of a two-year cycle for the World Cup, questions need to be asked whether too much of a good thing will destroy what makes the competition special.

One of the best parts of the World Cup is the spectacle of it all. The elite quality of the tournament is already being watered down with the changes to the format, with 48 teams instead of 32. 

While allowing more teams in will create new markets for the competition, it isn’t like the World Cup would struggle for viewership without them, as it is the most-watched sporting event on the planet.

The changes to the structure of the cup – with two out of a group of three going through instead of the top two in a group of four – is already challenging the tradition and excitement of the World Cup. If you draw one of the powerhouse teams, like Spain, France, or Brazil, then it is likely your country will be on a plane ride home after playing just two games.

Despite the success of the World Cup, FIFA seems to want to tinker with the competition without any concern for the negative impacts the changes may cause. To build support for this, FIFA is wheeling out stars like Arsene Wenger and Yaya Toure.

Wenger is currently FIFA’s chief of global football development

Why FIFA wants to interrupt what has proved to be a winning formula only has one answer: Greed. More games mean more money. In a 48 team competition, there will be 64 games, compared to 40 in the current format. More games equal more money for TV rights and a wider reach for the game with an added 16 teams.

Combine this with the concept of hosting a World Cup every two years instead of four, and FIFA will be printing money like never before.

The unfortunate side effect of this will a weaker competition in terms of quality. There are always some relatively poor teams featured in a World Cup, but adding another 16 of the ‘best of the rest’ will dilute the talent pool. Combine this with the fact some teams may even go home playing only two games, it will surely make the World Cup a less exciting affair for many appearing in the group stage.

Another factor that needs to be considered is sustainability. We’ve already seen that major sporting tournaments often leave countries with huge stadiums without any use for them.

Engineers Against Poverty say that hosting a World Cup leaves a “legacy of white elephants”, with stadiums built for the 2010 South Africa World Cup and 2014 World Cup in Brazil “hemorrhaging taxpayer’s money”. 

A white elephant refers to a possession whose cost of maintenance is well beyond its value, and whose owner cannot dispose of it. An apt reference to what World Cup stadiums have become for countries that do not need bumper stadiums.

Four cities in Brazil that hosted games at the 2014 World Cup –Manaus, Cuiabá, Natal, and Brasília – have no major football teams to play in the humongous stadiums built for the event.

South Africa spent $2.7 billion to build 12 new stadiums for the World Cup, in a country where half the population lives off an average of $242AUD a month

Polokwane, a city of 130,000, now pays $2.7 million a year in maintenance towards the legacy of the South African World Cup.

Peter Mokaba Stadium, Polokwane, South Africa

Russia is also struggling with issues related to stadiums built for the 2018 World Cup. In Saransk, local authorities are dealing with the upkeep of 300 million rubles (AUD 5.5 million) to maintain the stadium built for the event.

Major events don’t just lead to empty stadiums either. For the Sochi Winter Olympics, the Russian Government built a $13.5 billion tunnel system to connect Sochi to the rest of the country. The operation and maintenance of this underutilised infrastructure cost taxpayers $1.6 billion a year. 

FIFA has praised the joint World Cup bid from the United States, Mexico and Canada for using existing infrastructure instead of building new stadiums, however, few countries already have the facilities to host games. 

By expanding the World Cup to every two years, many countries will  be hosting for the first time. This will inevitably lead to similar cases to South Africa, Brazil, and Russia’s stadiums becoming a burden on citizens. 

FIFA risk damaging their premier competition in the pursuit of greed. It needs to be asked why they seem hell-bent on changing a winning formula, especially one that has already been embraced worldwide.

How the NPL can learn off the USL’s content deal with Footballco

The United Soccer League (USL) has launched a strategic content partnership with Footballco, a football media company, being designated as an “Official Content Partner of the USL.”

The company will showcase the league, which is the football pyramid separate to the franchised MLS in the US, through existing fan and player-led video content formats, original creatives, features and news.

Goal and Mundial will focus on the men’s divisions, while Indivisa will work on the soon-to-be-launched USL Super League and USL W League with a more lifestyle and community-led approach to its content.

Footballco is strategically aiming to expand in the US, with the next Men’s World Cup and Olympics taking place there, and a bid for the next Women’s World Cup possibly adding that to the mix.

USL Chief Marketing Officer Greg Lalas discussed the importance of fast-tracking the USL’s growth with the sport becoming more popular.

“The USL is the heartbeat of American soccer, and we are thrilled to partner with Footballco to help bring the story of our leagues and our clubs to new fans around the world,” Lalas explained in a USL released statement.

“Brands like Goal, Mundial, and Indivisa are massively influential in the global soccer community, and as we look to extend our reach both domestically and internationally, we were excited about the opportunity Footballco presents.

“Likewise, we look forward to supporting Footballco’s strategic expansion in the U.S. This really is a match made in soccer heaven.”

Jason Wagenheim, Footballco’s CEO, North America discussed the potential this deal has for both companies.

“The USL is among the most exciting soccer leagues in the United States. As we expand our U.S. footprint, we look forward to connecting at an entirely new level with the clubs, players and fans at the heart of the USL,” Wagenheim added in a statement.

“Our reporting goes beyond just news and scores to cover the intersection of soccer and lifestyle, and there’s a huge opportunity to put the USL at the centre of that storytelling – something we know our audience craves.”

There are a lot of similarities between the NPL and USL in terms of its place in the football pyramid of its respective country and attendance numbers, and whilst the funding is different, it begs the question, should the standard of NPL content be higher from the state federations and clubs?

NPL1 matches are currently being streamed on YouTube under the NPL.TV channel, with every game live and with commentary. There have been known issues in recent years with NPL.TV streaming on the now administrated Cluch TV and the absence of live games since had affected the pyramid.

After a return to YouTube in 2024, it’s good to see a healthy audience watching games live on a big platform but fan and club driven content is still so scarce.

Akin to the partnership between USL and Footballco, Australia’s state federations need to do more with website and social media content. Among all of the divisions in each state, there is plenty of opportunity for behind-the-scenes access, stadium news and promotion of big matches including derbies to draw interest to YouTube live streams.

The forward-thinking approach of the USL has provided the NPL with a good blueprint to expand the lower leagues and Australian Football pyramid.

It’s simple, providing the vast array of NPL fans with league-focused social media content on a popular social media channel like the state federation accounts and actively promote any signings, big club news or upcoming matches that fans could attend or watch on NPL.TV.

A lot of these suggestions aren’t particularly out of budget for the NPL, but rather are more of an effort-driven focus that can have a big impact on attendance, viewership and publicity.

FIFA+ delivering valuable exposure for Oceania football

The Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) is partnering with FIFA’s football streaming platform, FIFA+, to broadcast its international and club competitions for two years.

The deal signifies a major win for the commercialisation and promotion of Oceanian football globally.

FIFA+ is a mobile and desktop application that provides subscribers with live streaming of various FIFA competitions, magazine shows, documentary films, and archived matches from previous tournaments.

The application will televise all major OFC competitions, such as the OFC Champions League (Men’s, women’s and youth), futsal and beach soccer competitions, and the men’s 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign.

The World Cup qualifying campaign takes on greater importance this year, as for the first time ever, OFC nations will battle for one automatic spot at the 2026 Men’s FIFA World Cup.

It represents an important moment for Oceanian football, and while there is global scepticism about FIFA’s move to a 48-team men’s World Cup, it is the smaller nations like those in Oceania who will benefit greatly.

Adding OFC’s collaboration with FIFA+ to the mix only incentivises players and coaches further, providing them a platform to build their careers and future pathways.

“This partnership with FIFA+ marks a new era for Oceania football. It’s a monumental step towards realising our dreams and showcasing the talents of our region to a global audience,” OFC General Secretary Franck Castillo said via press release.

“We are excited about the opportunities this collaboration unlocks and the new horizons it opens for our players, teams, and fans.”

The increased coverage will be crucial to OFC’s commercial endeavours and future sustainability as an organisation. General Secretary Castillo paid tribute to the efforts of OFC members to secure this deal.

“In the last five years, OFC has gone to great lengths to grow football coverage across the Pacific and provide quality broadcast production standards to all fans,” he added via media release.

“As a testament to these efforts, our social media following has increased by 110% and live streaming views by 200% since 2019. We have rallied media rights in the broadcast space and expanded our distribution from four regional TV broadcasters to 26.”

“We have also expanded commercially through selling our live streaming, media and data rights for the next two years – 2024 and 2025; this is a major step forward for us in the commercial space.”

Below is the full list of competitions to be shown live and free on FIFA+ in 2024:

OFC Women’s Champions League – Solomon Islands | 10-23 March

OFC Men’s Nations Cup – Qualifying – Tonga | 20-26 March

OFC U-19 Men’s Championship – Qualifying – Vanuatu | 9-15 April

OFC U-16 Men’s Championship – Qualifying – Tonga | 13-19 April

OFC Futsal Men’s Champions League – New Caledonia | 23-28 April

OFC Men’s Champions League – Tahiti | 11-24 May

OFC U-16 Women’s Championship – Qualifying – New Zealand | 14-20 June

OFC Men’s Nations Cup – Vanuatu | 15-30 June

OFC U-19 Men’s Championship – Samoa | 7-20 July

OFC U-16 Men’s Championship – Tahiti | 28 July-10 August

OFC Futsal Women’s Nations Cup – Solomon Islands | 18-24 August

FIFA World Cup 2026™ – Oceania Qualifiers MD 1 & 2 – Samoa | 2-10 September

OFC U-16 Women’s Championship – Fiji | 8-21 September

FIFA World Cup 2026™ – Oceania Qualifiers MD 3 – New Zealand & Vanuatu | 7-15 October

OFC Beach Soccer Men’s Nations Cup – Solomon Islands | 20-26 October

FIFA World Cup 2026™ – Oceania Qualifiers MD 4 & 5 – New Zealand & Papua New Guinea | 11-19 November

Most Popular Topics

Editor Picks

Send this to a friend