- FIFA has decided against adjusting the field of teams from 32 to 48 at the 2022 World Cup
- Which teams may have offered some great longshot value in an expanded field?
- With the normal 32 spots available, where does the best value exist?
World Cup 2026 in the United States, Canada and Mexico has been widely publicized as the first World Cup to include 48 teams instead of the customary 32. However, there had been discussion of expanding the field even earlier in time for 2022 when soccer’s biggest tournament is hosted in Qatar.
Those discussions were brought to an end on Wednesday, as a deadline to submit an updated proposal at the June 5 FIFA Congress was quickly approaching. Due to the short timeframe, and the political tensions among Middle Eastern countries, the ability to expand the tournament into another neighboring country was deemed impossible at this time.
World Cup 2022 Odds
|Country||Odds to Win 2022 World Cup at Bovada|
*Odds taken May 23, 2019
For most nations, their World Cup 2022 odds have seen minimal movement since opening. Though each of Portugal, Switzerland, Netherlands and England have seen their odds shorten as UEFA Nations League semifinalists.
2018 World Cup champions France, while currently as low as +500 at Bovada, have seen their average 2022 odds adjust from +500 at opening, to +620 today.
The 2022 World Cup will have 32 teams ? pic.twitter.com/VSsUvLT2z1
— B/R Football (@brfootball) May 22, 2019
Though many qualifying round matches and some group stage matches often see lopsided results, the opportunity for an expanded field would’ve given a chance to several smaller nations who may not have qualified in the original 32 team field.
The deeper field could’ve created some value-betting opportunities with more nations at long odds entering the tournament. So let’s take a look at a few longshots who may have just seen their value go up in smoke.
Longshots Be Gone
Look far enough down the 2022 futures board and there are plenty of teams on offer for upwards of 1000-1 odds. Now these are nations like South Africa, Panama, New Zealand, Honduras and Canada. Whether it be 32 teams, 48, or 100, the likelylihood of some of these nations lifting the World Cup is near impossible.
When you consider that only eight countries have won a World Cup over the 21 editions of the tournament, this is not the time to go too crazy on some of the extreme longshots. However, perhaps, just maybe, some mid-tier longshots could have been worth a play with the larger field.
Only eight countries have won a World Cup over the 21 editions of the tournament.
World Cup winners have only ever come from Europe or South America, so let’s focus on those continental qualifiers.
Bosnia & Herzegovina scored the seventh-most goals (24), among the 54 teams in European qualifying. Yet they failed to qualify, finishing third in Group H behind Belgium and Greece. They currently have odds of +15000.
“The tactical achievement of the decade”: how Greece conquered a continent to win Euro 2004
— Voicing Football (@VoicingFootball) May 19, 2019
And while we’re talking Greece, they, along with Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Italy, all fell just short of gaining a ticket to Russia, having been eliminated in the European playoff qualifiers. Who can forget 2004 when Greece went all the way to the Euro finals and upset Portugal. Perhaps a ticket on the Greeks at +25000 could have been worth a bet.
In CONMEBOL qualifying, Chile, winners of each of the past two Copa América tournaments, failed to qualify from their continent, finishing just sixth out of a ten-team qualifying group. Surely with 48 teams, perhaps the Chileans could’ve presented some value at odds of +5000.
Who Does a 32 Team Field Benefit?
The format for the 48 team field in 2026 will see the opening round feature 16 groups of three, with the top two advancing to a round of 32 knockout phase. So really, the amount of games needed to reach the final has not changed from the standard six. Thus, I’m not sure a smaller field will truly benefit any of the fringe teams.
However, it may help on finding value.
Unique pitch in Qatar for 2022 World Cup ???? pic.twitter.com/NTz0EcUZld
— Konti (@Konti24021845) May 23, 2019
When you look at Europe, nine groups of six played out the qualifiers with first place teams advancing and eight of the nine second place teams moving onto a playoff. Through that playoff, each of Switzerland (+15000), Croatia (+5000), Sweden (+15000) and Denmark (+8000) gained a spot at World Cup 2018.
In South America, four teams automatically qualified, while one, Peru (+10000), played out an inter-continental playoff against New Zealand, to earn their spot.
Peru fans have been named #TheBest in the world! ??
After the World Cup this summer, it's hard to argue with that!
— COPA90 US (@COPA90US) September 24, 2018
Given each of these teams were good enough to reach the World Cup, albeit barely, they are no lock to do so again in 2022 and could be worth a bet today.
One team sportsbooks seem truly high on, despite a shocking third place finish in their qualifying group and not reaching the World Cup, is the Netherlands. However, they’ve since reached the semifinals of the UEFA Nations League and have odds of +2000.
How did Iceland, a nation of 350,000, qualify for the World Cup last summer? “[Soccer] is heavily subsidized. The municipalities make sure every child can play and go to training if they want to,” says former presidential candidate @ThoraArnors
— Altamar Podcast (@AltamarPodcast) May 16, 2019
There’s also Iceland. Who, despite finishing bottom of their group at the World Cup, were first in their qualifying group with 22 points. The Strákarnir okkar have huge odds of +25000.
Finally, it was only 2014, that USA came oh-so-close to advancing past Belgium in the round of 16. With a new coach and rebuilding team, they can no longer be considered a lock to qualify from CONCACAF. At odds of +8000 they could be a steal if they qualify for Qatar 2022.
Let's have fun and keep it civil.