The proposal from Gianni Infantino for a 48 team World Cup has been met by an almost unanimous stream of opprobrium by twitter users. Or it was at least opposed by the twitter users I follow. And I guess that’s the point? Most of the people I follow have a UK or US centric view on football/soccer. Both England and the United States are likely to comfortably qualify for 32 team World Cup, despite the best efforts of each country not do (Thanks Allardyce/Klinsmann).
The obvious worries are that it will water-down the competition, that there’ll be too many games and that it will make the Panini album almost impossible to complete without a small bank-loan. All of these concerns are valid (especially the last one). However, if you view the 48 team World Cup from an Asian or African perspective then there are likely to be many more people keen on the idea. After all, only a limited number of countries qualify from these two huge continents and the thought of a couple more places for each continent would surely be voted for by the majority of AFC and CAF nations.
Rather than directly oppose the idea of a 48 team World Cup with groups of three, perhaps the football community should come up with a better format for this World Cup. Perhaps the best 24 nations in the World should qualify automatically, with the second best 24 sides playing off (either in groups of four, or as a straight playoff) for the final 12 places in a 32 team World Cup. This could easily be accommodated in the weeks leading up to a tournament when sides are normally playing warm-up games.
Like many things in football, if the idea makes money it’s likely to be implemented. And 48 teams means more games, and more money. It also gives the nations with the larger TV audiences (like England and USA) that extra bit of leeway, just in case they do wish to employ Gareth Southgate and Bruce Arena as national team coaches.