Spanish top-flight division Laliga has slammed FIFA’s decision to expand the 2026 World Cup and the Club World Cup.
On Tuesday, March 14, 2023, the world football governing body announced the decision to expand the 2026 World Cup and Club World Cup to accommodate more teams from continental associations and encourage more inclusion in football.
FIFA 2026 World Cup and Club World Cup Plans
Originally, 32 teams always compete in FIFA Men’s World Cup after qualifiers across the different continental associations and a few inter-continental playoffs.
The 32-team FIFA Men’s World Cup consisted of 8 groups with four teams. Two teams are made to qualify from each group to the knockouts starting from round 16.
Now, the new FIFA expansion plans will see the 2026 World Cup tournament made up of 48 teams instead of 32 teams.
104 matches will be played instead of 64 matches and teams will be divided into 12 groups of four with the knockout starting from round 32 instead of round 16.
The expanded World Cup means World Cup winners will now play eight matches before being crowned champions instead of seven matches before winning the tournament.
The world football’s governing body is also planning an expansion of the Club World Cup from a seven-team tournament organized annually to a 32-team tournament organized every four years just like the World Cup with more slots for continental associations.
Laliga hits out at FIFA’s planned expansion
Laliga has slammed the decision of FIFA to effect summary changes on the two tournaments.
In an official statement released by the body, the Spanish elite football division hit out at FIFA for blatantly disregarding national championships and the football community in general.
They argue FIFA’s planned changes to the two tournaments will come with a heavy financial toll on national leagues around the world and the body have erred announcing the decision without consultation with the national leagues.
“FIFA is showing complete disregard for the importance of national championships, and the football community in general.
“Fifa completely neglects the economic damage these decisions inflict on leagues around the world. Leagues were not consulted about any of the changes presented,” the Laliga statement read.
The World League Forum, an organization representing football leagues across FIFA national associations, has reportedly opposed FIFA’s planned expansion of the World Cup and Club World Cup.
The flashpoint of conflict between FIFA and the national leagues revolves around concerns of clubs and players’ welfare which will be stonewalled with tight match schedules and heavily congested international calendar.
As things stand, it is apparent FIFA and some national league associations are yet to agree on the proposed expansion plan. Laliga have confirmed they will analyze the decision with WLF before taking a stand.
FIFA President, Gianni Infantino is the brain behind the plot to format the two competitions.
Opposition has been coming from UEFA in Europe and CONMEBOL in South America, who are concerned of having an international club competiton that may rival their continental club competitions, including the additional burden of always releasing players for the tournament.
The stand of Laliga is part of the larger opposition of the UEFA and more domestic league bodies within the continent. More league bodies are expected to speak up against the new changes in the coming days.