Expanded World Cup sacrifices the integrity of the game

Justin Thompson

 

Sometimes more isn’t better.

While an expansion of the world’s most popular sporting event was inevitable, the most recent proposal from FIFA has sent the sports world reeling in controversy.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s 48-team World Cup, while having its upsides, is without a doubt a greedy ploy for money and publicity with little regard to the quality or integrity of the game.

FIFA’s contentious past is certainly no comfort either. Their history has been plagued with accusations of corruption and greed, culminating in ex-president Sepp Blatter being banned from office in 2015 for indictments of money laundering and bribery after an FBI investigation. Wanting to expand the World Cup and rake in more revenue every four years does not help their greedy image.

However, all partiality aside, the question of whether this “new and improved” World Cup is a good idea still remains. The greatest downfall of such an event is simply that more teams means less quality of matches. With 16 additional teams, there will be many unskilled nationalities competing and, while it may be nice to see teams such as Panama or Fiji in a World Cup, will create countless unbearable matches. There will be blowout matches where the Germanys and Argentinas of the world will dominate smaller nations. On the flipside, weaker teams will “park the bus” against the bigger teams and play for 0-0 ties. Due to the new format of the group stage, there is even a risk where both teams will intentionally play for a draw in order to secure advancement.

The argument for a 48-team World Cup is mainly that since there will be more teams, then we will see more superstars competing for the ultimate championship. In 2014, world-class stars such as Zlatan Ibrahimovich and Gareth Bale missed out on playing in Brazil. With 16 more teams, the chances of them qualifying would be much higher. Additionally, only 8 different teams  have won the World Cup over the years. Theoretically, more teams means more competition and therefore a broader spectrum of possible winners.

However, this romanticized view of possibilities is not quite as clear-cut as one might expect. For every superstar that gets to participate, an entire team of subpar players compete as well. Teams such as Sweden or Wales who are carried by only one player will still struggle mightily as well and may be just as unentertaining. And while additional teams may spice up the odds a bit, the fact remains that those some 8 teams that have actually won a World Cup still all dominate today (Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Spain, England, Uruguay, France, Italy) and there’s little doubt that one of these same teams will win it again in 2018.

Perhaps at some point in the future an expanded World Cup will be necessary and well-organized. However, it is clear that FIFA’s agenda, like in many instances, is not focused on what is best for the game. This proposal is not well thought-out and the only real benefits come monetarily. When sports decisions are made without the sports best interests in mind, then that is when real problems ensue.