Evolution of FIFA's SWC format

Spain (Gallo Images)
Spain (Gallo Images)

Zurich - Following FIFA's ruling council's unanimous approval on Tuesday of an expansion of the World Cup to 48 teams in 2026, here's a look at the evolution of the tournament since the inaugural edition in 1930.

1930: The first World Cup final kicked off with 13 teams in Uruguay, including four European nations - Belgium, France, Romania and Yugoslavia.

1934: Expanded to 16 teams for the tournament in Italy, after a qualifying stage for the first time.

1938: Only 15 teams take part in France after Austria, which had just been annexed by Nazi Germany, withdraw.

1950: The World Cup returns after World War II - the previous two editions having being cancelled - with 13 teams competing in Brazil.

1954: Hosted by Switzerland the tournament returns to the 16-team format.

1958: In Sweden, format unchanged in a tournament in which Brazilian star Pele wins the first of his three World Cups and France striker Just Fontaine is the top scorer with 13 goals, a record which still stands.

1970: The World Cup in Mexico is one of firsts - introduction of substitutes (two) during a match; red and yellow cards and tournament televised in colour. Format unchanged.

1982: As FIFA looks for new revenues the World Cup in Spain witnessed a small revolution with the passage from 16 to 24 teams and 52 matches played.

1986: This edition in Mexico won by Diego Maradona's Argentina introduces a knockout round of last 16 and quarter-finals.

1994: Football continues to modernise with 147 participating in qualifiers and Africa gaining a third team in the final in the United States.

1998: The tournament organised in France moves to 32 teams. 174 teams participated in qualifiers.

2002: For the first time the World Cup is jointly hosted by two countries - Japan and South Korea. Brazil win for a fifth time.

2010: The first World Cup hosted on the African continent. Format unchanged.

2022: To avoid the searing summer heat, the World Cup in Qatar will take place for the first time in winter, from November 21 to December 18 in the Gulf state.

2026: FIFA approved an expansion to 48 teams in the 2026 World Cup, with a format of 16 groups of three nations.

Here are some of the figures behind the new-look format.

-- 48 teams: 16 groups of three

-- 32-team knock-out round, increasing number of games from 64 to 80 but within the same 32-day schedule in 12 stadia

-- Two teams from each group advance to a 32-nation knock-out round

-- If a team progresses to the final in 2026, they will have played seven matches, the same number as a 32-team World Cup

-- With 48 teams with squads of 23, 1,104 players will head to the 2026 event

-- A confidential FIFA report seen by AFP projects a cash boost of $640 million (605 million euros) above projected revenues for next year's finals in Russia.

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