A 48-Team World Cup?

Recently, FIFA president Gianni Infantino suggested expanding the number of participants in the FIFA World Cup from 32-teams to 48-teams.  On the surface this proposal is absurd as the bloated World Cup would further dilute the talent of the teams participating, expand an already exhausting 64-match tournament to 80 matches, and be a mega event requiring massive infrastructure to support thus eliminating many countries from hosting (or worse, exploiting countries by making them build one-time use facilities with resources better spent on a nation’s people).  Nevertheless, I can still see how a 48-team field may work and make it possible for more countries to participate and to host World Cup matches.  It would require reimagining the staging of the World Cup into three phase.

The first phase, much like today, would be qualification at the level of the six continental confederations.  Increasing the field to 48 teams from 32 means that proportionately, the number of teams from each confederation would be as follows:

  • AFC – 7
  • CAF – 8
  • CONCACAF – 5
  • CONMEBOL – 7
  • OFC -1
  • UEFA -20

These 48 teams would be drawn into twelve groups of four, with seeding to allow for a balance of teams from different confederations.

The second phase would be group play of these twelve groups, scheduled in a two to three week international break in domestic leagues around February.  Each group of four would play in a different host country.  The goal would be for each confederation to have at least one country hosting a group of four.  After a 3-match round robin, the first place team in each group advances automatically to the final phase.

The twelve second place teams will be drawn to play home and away aggregate goal playoff to reduce the field to six.  The surviving six teams are drawn again to play another home/away playoff.  These three teams join the 12 teams already qualified and the host nation in the final field of 16.

The final phase will once again be familiar.  The 16 teams are drawn into groups of four and the top two teams from each group advance to a knock out round.  And that is how a 48-team World Cup could work. 


  • Expanding to 48 teams allows for me teams to participate in the World Cup and play competitive matches against teams from other confederations on a world stage.
  • Playing World Cup in phases allows for more matches without forcing them into an exhausting schedule concentrated in a month’s time.
  • Any country with at least two good stadiums can host a group in the second phase.
  • The final phase has a smaller number of teams – appealing to traditionalists – and makes it possible for many countries to host without breaking the bank.


  • Still may be too many games and too many teams. 
  • Too long an interruption of domestic league seasons. 
  • Too spread out over space and time. 

Movie Review: Harvard Beats Yale 29-29

TitleHarvard Beats Yale 29-29
Release Date: 2008
Director: Kevin Rafferty

This football documentary has an intriguing title in that it gives away the final score, yet it also fibs about one side winning a tie game.  It’s a no-frills sports documentary where tv footage of the actual game is interspliced with interviews with dozens of the players who participated in the game.  For Ivy League colleges, it is interesting that many of the players had working class backgrounds.  On the other hand, one team had a player who was roommates with George W. Bush and the other team had a player rooming with Al Gore.  The latter is famed actor Tommy Lee Jones.  The interviews touch on the Vietnam War, student protests, and the sexual revolution, but largely this is the story of men in their 60s reflecting on how one exhilarating moment affected their entire lives.

Rating: **1/2

Photopost: College Football

I’m not someone you will often find at a college football game, but I got free tickets from work (full disclosure: my employer has a football team) and my son enjoys going to sporting events of any kind.  So on September 26, Peter & I made our way to Harvard Stadium to see the Crimson take on Brown.  A few years back, we saw Harvard run up the score in a torrential downpour against Holy Cross.  For this game, the weather was crisp and clear, a perfect autumn night, but Harvard still ran up the score.

I may not be a big fan of football, but I love historic sporting venues and seeing a game in Harvard Stadium is a treat (when it’s not raining).  It was also nice to be there when a lot of other fans were present for the atmosphere, including a large number of students who we first saw having a rowdy tailgate in the parking area.  Unfortunately, with the score 37-0 at halftime, most of the other spectators departed, making it feel very lonely in the cavernous stadium.  After the game, kids were invited on the field and Peter got autographs from a couple of Harvard players which was pretty cool.

Maybe I’ll do this again in another three years.

Book Review: The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis

I’m not too interested in football but I read (with my ears) The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game (2006) by Michael Lewis because it sounded like an intriguing story and I’d liked Lewis’ earlier sports book MoneyballThe Blind Side deals with a change that occurred in the NFL with the emergence of the New York Giants’ linebacker Lawrence Taylor.  Taylor was able to change the game because he was a huge man but also fast, agile, and athletic.  As a result he was able to put fear in the hearts of NFL quarterbacks by being able to come at them fast and furious from the right, their blind side.  Lewis details LT’s effect in a second-by-second retelling of the four-second play that ended Washington QB Joe Thiesman’s careeer (which you can see in all its gory on YouTube).  As a result, NFL teams had to find big, agile men to play Left Tackle to defend against the rushing Lawrence Taylors of the game.  The importance of a good protection for the QB has resulted in Left Tackles being among the most highly paid players in the game.

After this prologue, the narrative switches to the story of Michael Oher, a left tackle at Ole Miss expected to be one of the top choices in next year’s NFL draft.  Oher is a big, athletic young man and a talented football player, but his life story as told by Lewis is far more intriguing.  Oher never even played organized football until he was 16 and that was at the unlikely location of a private Christian school in Memphis.  Escaping poverty in this wealthy, mostly-white school, Oher wins the hearts of a coach Sean Tuohy and his wife Leigh Ann who take Oher into their home and eventually adopt him.  Oher’s struggles to improve academically after a lifetime of almost no formal education are the most inspiring parts of the book, especially a section where Sean and Michael work out the poem “Charge of the Light Brigade.”

Despite the title, this book actually has little to do with football, but it is a story of hope and generosity and what can happen when an impoverished boy receives some loving nurturing.  When amateur drafts are discussed in the sports media, they can be dehumanizing, treating the players as commodities.  Thanks to Michael Lewis, we can know the story of one of those very real human beings who happen to play the sport of football.

A portion of the story may also be read in the New York Times article “The Ballad of Big Mike.” There are also plans afoot to adapt the book into a movie.

Author Lewis, Michael (Michael M.)
Title The blind side [sound recording] : [evolution of a game] / Michael Lewis.
Publication Info. New York : Random House Audio, p2006.
Edition Abridged.
Description 5 sound discs (6 hr.) : digital ; 4 3/4 in.