Updated: Aug 7, 2022
The allure of the World Cup is that once every four years, people from all walks of life get together to cheer on their national team in the World Cup. FIFA is now looking into a change to the format of every four years to every two years starting in 2028. It would change the schedule of intercontinental tournaments like the Euro or Copa America to occur every two years as well. The study is being led by legendary Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger, who is now FIFA’s Chief of Global Football Development. The study is being held after the Saudi Arabia Federation sent a request in May. Along with Wenger’s approval, 166 out of the 210 national associations in FIFA have given their backing for the study.
Wenger believes that this would give clubs more control over their players as this proposed change would give only two international breaks each year. This would limit the amount of time that players would be on national team duty along with limiting the travel that they do. Currently, there are multiple international breaks throughout the year in which clubs release their players to their respective national teams. Wenger’s proposal would mean that national teams have even less time to build out a squad and to call up different players. Of course, club coaches will be happy since they will have their team around for most of the year and will have less to worry about players picking up an injury while on international duty.
Wenger sees the current global landscape as being too cluttered and believes fans want more meaningful matches. Although club managers will have their players around for longer, this will mean that players will have to play even more matches. With a World Cup or intercontinental tournament being played every summer, this would mean that players would be playing in more matches. Along with the tournaments, you would need to fit in games to qualify for these tournaments too. These extra games will inevitably lead to more injuries across the sport as we’ve seen during and after the pandemic as leagues and nations have scrambled to fit in too many games in small windows to make up for the lost time.
We’ve already seen the field expand from 32 to 48 for the 2026 World Cup in North America. Changing the World Cup to every two years may not be a positive innovation. The World Cup is heralded as the biggest trophy one can win in the sport. Part of that is since it is every four years, not many have had the chance to win a World Cup. Some of the game’s greatest players ever like Messi, Ronaldo and Cruyff have never lifted up a World Cup. For FIFA, making it every two years would certainly bring in more revenue as you see the world’s biggest stars battle it out for the biggest trophy more often. For smaller countries, it may give them a better chance to host a World Cup since you will need more host countries and it would bring more revenue to those countries.
While Wenger is a fan of this change, UEFA President Aleksander Çeferin opposes the plan. Çeferin believes that making the World Cup every two years would undermine the intercontinental championships like Gold Cup and Euros. He believes it would dilute the World Cup along with giving players even less time to recover in the off-season. Although Wenger proposes a 25-day break after the international tournaments, this is still not enough time for players to recover.
Of course, as time goes on the game needs innovation. For many, international football is a time where they were wishing that club football is back. Fans find that there are too many “boring” games as they would prefer not to watch England face a small country like Andorra. Since the introduction of Nation League, it’s certainly been a positive substitution for the countless friendlies that national teams would play. A Nations League trophy cannot be compared to a trophy like Copa America and definitely not the World Cup, but it’s still a trophy to play for. A change to every two years would change the World Cup forever, maybe for the better, maybe for the worse.
Greg Termolle is a 2L at Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University. You can follow him on Twitter at @GregTerm.