The Number of Non-Competitive Matches in 2026 FIFA World Cup  
Author Traian Marius Truta




Abstract FIFA World Cup is one of the most watched sporting event in the world. While currently 32 teams participate in this event, starting with 2026 the number of participants will increase to 48. As a result, FIFA proposed a major format change; the groups of 4 teams will be replaced by groups of 3 teams, with the first two teams to qualify to the second round. In this paper, we analyze the possibility of matches with limited importance (called noncompetitive) for final group standing for both 4-team and 3- team groups and we introduce our definitions of collusion and dead rubber games. We recommend a variation of the proposed 3-group format in which the order of matches for each group is predetermined. Our analysis show that this variation has the potential of reducing significantly the number of non-competitive matches thus becoming an interesting option to be considered for adoption by FIFA. In conclusion, we recommend FIFA to implement a predefined order of group matches prior to the drawing. The seeded team should play the first match with the team that is second best (according to the drawing time FIFA rankings), as well as the second match from the group.


Keywords prediction, data analysis, World Cup, soccer / football, non-competitive matches
    Article #:  DSIS19-9
Proceedings of ISSAT International Conference on Data Science & Intelligent Systems
August 1-3, 2019 - Las Vegas, NV, U.S.A.