FIFA considers introducing penalty shootouts in the group stage of the 2026 World Cup

FIFA is considering introducing penalty shootouts to decide whether teams should get a bonus point if group stage games are tied at the expanded World Cup in 2026.

The upcoming men’s tournament in the United States, Canada and Mexico will feature 48 teams instead of 32 and is expected to feature 16 three-team groups instead of the eight four-team groups we’ve seen in Qatar.

The top two from each group will advance to a knockout round of 32, an additional knockout round from the current format.

FIFA’s council previously voted unanimously in favor of three-team groups, but the possibility of forming four-team groups is increasingly coming back to behind-the-scenes talks.

It would mean more games and a potentially easy group stage in which the two highest-ranked teams qualify for the knockout rounds with relative ease. However, the risk of any collusion would be reduced.

If FIFA opts for three-team groups, the introduction of penalty shoot-outs, to determine which team could claim a bonus point in the event of a tie after 90 minutes in the group stage, is an option to decide which team advances .

These shootouts could take place before kickoff or during full time.

However, if the penalty shootout took place after the match, there is a greater risk of manipulation, for example, if a particular result benefited both teams and eliminated the third country from the group.

Since 1986, FIFA has scheduled the final round of group stage matches in World Cups at the same time to reduce the chances of this happening, and UEFA has done the same for the European Championships.

The change was introduced after the “Gijón misfortune” in 1982, when a 1-0 West German win against Austria sent both teams at the expense of Algeria, who had beaten Chile before the West German match began. and Austria.

Marco van Basten, FIFA’s director of technical development, said in January 2017 that penalty shoot-outs could be introduced to determine tied matches during the group stage.

“Shootouts could be an option for tournaments with groups of three where you play against two opponents,” Van Basten told Sport Bild.

“It can get pretty tight. If a team, for example, draws one game 0-0 and wins the other 1-0, there is a high risk that all three teams will be even on points and goals at the end.”

The possibility of groups with four teams in each, however, is not entirely ruled out because it would minimize the risk of any collusion.

The downside, however, would be a potentially straightforward group stage in which the top two ranked teams qualify for the knockout rounds with relative ease.

In 2017, Ottmar Hitzfeld, who led Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich to Champions League victories, said three-team groups would be “highly attractive.”

“The third group game at the World Cup is often boring,” he added, “as the big nations are usually over.

“With this format, the tension would be guaranteed from the beginning and we would quickly move on to the round of 16.”

FIFA has been contacted for comment.


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