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The merits of a 48-team World Cup (and sample draw)

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There are fans in certain confederations disappointed at the expansion of the World Cup to 48 teams in 2026.

A vocal group of Europeans already think it should essentially be a Europe-heavy tournament, and expect the expansion will lead to many blowouts.

Some American and CONCACAF fans worry it will dilute World Cup qualifying, snaring drama from so many fun nights across North and Central America.

[ MORE: World Cup expansion confirmed ]

There’s something in those arguments, but the gains will outweigh the losses across the world. In other words, we have to be careful that we aren’t living in an echo chamber that the political world would even find a bit goofy.

Consider New Zealand, by far the strongest team in its region, has not be assured a spot in the tournament unless it can win a playoff tie. Or great stories like Bob Bradley‘s Egypt, who was at the mercy of a home-and-home battle for a World Cup group despite going 6-0 in group play.

Look it’s easy to be selfish in these instances, but we are not likely to be dealing with the oft-cited “Tahiti in the 2013 Confederations Cup” scenario.

In fact, let’s consider how it would look. Let’s assume that the 16 groups of three teams still feature one seeded team and confederations remain separated.

[ MORE: Explaining the format ]

UEFA will get 16 teams, and have one team per group. CONMEBOL goes up to six teams, with CONCACAF going to 6.5. Africa goes up to nine, while Asia moves to 8.5. Oceania gets one, presumably, with the hosts snaring an extra.


Using ELOratings.net and the FIFA ratings, here is who would be headed for the World Cup:

Seeded: Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Chile, Belgium, Colombia, France, Portugal, Uruguay, Spain, Switzerland, Wales, England, Croatia, Poland, HOSTS.

Remaining UEFA (5): Italy, Netherlands, Republic of Ireland, Turkey, Ukraine.

Brazil Soccer WCup Colombia Ivory CoastRemaining CONMEBOL (1): Ecuador.

CAF (9): Ivory Coast, Senegal, Egypt, Nigeria, Algeria, Cameroon, South Africa, Tunisia, Ghana.

Asia (9): South Korea, Iran, Japan, Australia, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Syria.

CONCACAF (7): Mexico, Costa Rica, USA, Panama, Honduras, Canada, Jamaica.

Oceania (1): New Zealand

[ MORE: Schneiderlin off to Everton ]



Now a sample draw, where two teams would advance from each group.

GROUP A:
Argentina
Italy
Senegal

GROUP B:
Brazil
Netherlands
Egypt

GROUP C:
Germany
Ivory Coast
Mexico

GROUP D:
Chile
Republic of Ireland
Nigeria

GROUP E:
Belgium
Syria
Algeria

GROUP F:
Colombia
Turkey
Cameroon

GROUP G:
France
Qatar
South Africa

GROUP H:
Portugal
UAE
Tunisia

GROUP I:
Uruguay
Ukraine
Ghana

GROUP J:
Spain
Saudi Arabia
Costa Rica

GROUP K:
Switzerland
Uzbekistan
United States

GROUP L:
Wales
Australia
Panama

GROUP M:
England
Japan
New Zealand

GROUP N:
Croatia
Iran
Honduras

GROUP O:
Poland
Ecuador
Canada

GROUP P:
HOSTS (Let’s cater to UEFA and say, uh, Greece)
South Korea
Jamaica

[ MORE: Odegaard leaving Real Madrid on loan ]


RECIFE, BRAZIL - JUNE 29: Giorgos Samaras of Greece controls the ball against Oscar Duarte of Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Round of 16 match between Costa Rica and Greece at Arena Pernambuco on June 29, 2014 in Recife, Brazil. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
RECIFE, BRAZIL – JUNE 29: Giorgos Samaras of Greece and Oscar Duarte of Costa Rica  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

So, you’re getting more games and more meaningful games, each in their own individual television window. Even groups that seem clean cut — like Spain, Saudi Arabia, and Costa Rica — could be flipped on their ear by the end of the first match.

For what it’s worth, I would not end every match with penalty kicks and keep draws. I’d rather see extra time than an impetus for Greece to pack it inside its own 18 for 90 minutes.

But I believe we’d see something better from a 48-team tournament, and it would mostly end the days of, “Man I wish this list of stars was at the World Cup” (or at least make the list much smaller).

As for the “dud teams” involved, those countries get one less guaranteed game by the move to 3-team groups. And while in some ways qualifying would certainly suffer, consider the following scenarios. With CONMEBOL having 1.5 more spots, you’d see teams 9 and 10 alive longer in qualifying. That’s why it’s arguably an improvement for South America, who should’ve gone to a Hex-style format long ago.

What do you think? Are you bummed about the 48-team World Cup? Or is a lot of the furor rooted in a preference to dislike FIFA moves from the hop?

Follow @NicholasMendola

WATCH: Rashford sends arrow home to put Man Utd up two

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Seemingly everything he touches turns to gold goals.

Marcus Rashford scored twice in the first 17 minutes of Wednesday’s League Cup third round match versus Burton Albion at Old Trafford, and the second was a beaut.

[ MORE: Everton fines Rooney ]

It was a classy little chipped finish that made it 1-0, but Rashford unleashed from outside the 18 to beat a flying goalkeeper and put a jewel on the scoreboard.

Well, not really a jewel, but picture that “2” as real shiny.

Rashford now has five goals in eight matches for Manchester United this season, and 22 in 78 for his career. He turns 20 next month, which is nice.

Everton fines Rooney two weeks’ wages

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Wayne Rooney‘s move back to Everton was always going to benefit the Merseyside community, though it wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Everton has fined Rooney two weeks’ wages following his admission earlier this week to a drunk driving charge.

[ MORE: PL Player Power Rankings ]

According to the BBC, “Everton intend to give the entire sum – thought to be about £300,000 – to local projects through their Everton in the Community scheme.”

At a Monday court date, Rooney learned that he would not be allowed to drive for two years. He was also fined and assigned 100 hours of community service.

Rooney has two goals and an assist in nine appearances, all starts, for the struggling Toffees. He is not in the 18 for Everton’s third round League Cup tie versus Sunderland on Wednesday.

LIVE: Man United, Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal enter League Cup

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Five more League Cup third round games take place on Wednesday with Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Everton all hosting lower-league opponents.

[ LIVE: Latest League Cup scores ] 

Holders Man United welcome Burton Albion to Old Trafford, while Arsenal host Doncaster Rovers, Chelsea welcome Nottingham Forest to Stamford Bridge, Everton clash with recently relegated Sunderland and Manchester City head to West Brom.

On Tuesday five Premier League teams were knocked out of the competition as Liverpool lost at Leicester City, Stoke were upset at Bristol City, Burnley lost to Leeds United on penalty kicks, Brighton lost at Bournemouth and Huddersfield were knocked out by Crystal Palace.

[ MORE: Tuesday’s League Cup roundup ]

Below is the full schedule for Wednesday’s League Cup games with all games kicking off at 2:45 p.m. ET unless otherwise stated.

Click on the link above for live updates on all five games, while the fourth-round draw takes place after the games have finished.


Wednesday’s League Cup schedule

Arsenal vs. Doncaster Rovers
Chelsea vs. Nottingham Forest
Everton vs. Sunderland
Manchester United vs. Burton Albion – 3 p.m. ET
West Bromwich Albion vs. Manchester City – 3 p.m. ET

Men In Blazers podcast: Chelsea-Arsenal, Rooney, Pep

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Rog and Davo break down Arsenal’s draw at Chelsea, Wazza’s return to Old Trafford, and a robotic performance from Pep’s City side. Plus, a musical number at the end.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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