FIFA Expansion Gives Scotland Hope for World Cup Return

FIFA Expansion Gives Scotland Hope for World Cup Return

FIFA’s decision to expand the 2026 World Cup to 48 teams has sparked excitement among football fans worldwide, particularly in Scotland. The Scots have not qualified for the global tournament since 1998, but the expanded format offers them a renewed opportunity to return to the grandest stage.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino, in a tongue-in-cheek remark, suggested that the expansion was partly motivated by Scotland’s absence from recent World Cups. “We decided to increase from 32 to 48 to allow Scotland to participate,” Infantino told BBC Scotland.

Scotland’s recent qualification for Euro 2024 has boosted their hopes of making it to the 2026 World Cup. The Scots have a proud footballing history, with the second oldest national FA in the world after England. However, they have never progressed beyond the group stages in their eight previous World Cup appearances.

The expanded format of the 2026 World Cup will feature 16 groups of three teams, with the top two teams from each group advancing to the knockout stages. This format increases Scotland’s chances of qualifying, as they will only need to finish in the top two of their group to reach the round of 16.

Scotland’s qualification for Euro 2024 is a testament to their progress under manager Steve Clarke. The Scots finished second in their qualifying group behind Spain, ahead of Israel, Norway, Cyprus, and Romania. They will face Croatia, Czech Republic, and England in Group D of Euro 2024.

If Scotland can qualify for the 2026 World Cup, it will be a major achievement for the nation. The tournament will be co-hosted by the United States, Canada, and Mexico, and will be the first World Cup to feature 48 teams.