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Friday Kickoff: Prince Ali confirms World Cup expansion plan; Queretaro drops first leg to Pachuca; and more

PrinceAliBinAlHusseinLeadersInSport (Getty)



With Luis Figo and Michael van Praag opting to step aside to help support his bid, Prince Ali bin Al Hussein is hoping to shakeup the World Cup should he be elected FIFA President.

Prince Ali says that one change he hopes to make to FIFA involves upping World Cup participants from 32 to 36, with the AFC, CAF and CONCACAF all earning an additional berth. In addition, the plan would see CONMEBOL and OFC rise from 4.5 and 0.5 to five and one berths, respectively.

“[I will make a] commitment to extend the number of teams in the World Cup from 32 to 36 teams as soon as possible,” Prince Ali said. “Ideally in time for the 2018 World Cup.”

Prince Ali’s campaign now makes him the sole competitor to the incumbent Sepp Blatter following Figo and van Praag’s decision to step aside and throw their name behind the challenger.

Here are some more news and notes to kick off your Friday morning:


In the opening leg of the Liga MX Liguilla semifinals, Queretaro looked overmatched.

Ronaldinho and co. fell to a 2-0 defeat to Pachuca at the Estadio Hidalgo, giving Queretaro a major hole to climb out of heading into the tie’s second leg.

Pachuca, who maintained 65 percent possession, was led by goals from Germán Cano and Rodrigo Salinas in the ninth and 39th minutes, respectively, while Queretaro’s undoing was furthered by a Ricardo Osorio red card just before halftime.

In the other semifinal, Chivas de Guadalajara was held scoreless in a draw with Santos Laguna, setting up a tense second leg at the Estadio Omnilife.

Both second leg contests will be played on May 24.


Starting next season, it will be just a bit easier to remain a part of France’s elite clubs.

The French Football League (LFP) has opted to reduce the relegation spots in Ligue 1 from three to two in an effort to give potential owners “more security” on their investments.

“Investors need a little more security,” LFP president Frederic Thiriez toldL’Equipe. “Three up, three down is too many. Those who invest in football must be less subject to the permanent threat of relegation. Two down out of 20 clubs is good.”

The same system will be put in place in Ligue 2 regarding relegation to the country’s third tier.


Eden Hazard and Jose Mourinho have been named Premier League Player and Manager of the Season, respectively. (REPORT)

Arsenal’s Tomas Rosicky has extended his contract with Arsenal by one year. (REPORT)

Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola says midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger is wanted back with the club, but must decide on his own future. (REPORT)

Zbigniew Boniek, chairman of the Polish FA, says Russia should be stripped of hosting the 2018 World Cup due to the country’s ongoing conflict with Ukraine. (REPORT)


What do you think of Prince Ali’s World Cup plan? Who do you see as favorites in Liga MX? What do you think of France’s new relegation system?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. While giving more births to lower-performing confederations may be dubious at best, I don’t think expanding the overall field is a bad idea at all. I mean, how can more World Cup games be bad for anyone? More money and, as fans of the game, I’d think we could all get behind more WC matches to watch. I don’t think we need a March Madness-size pool, but certainly something bigger than 32 teams that benefits the RIGHT confeds would be a good thing, IMO. I like soccer. I like watching soccer. I like international soccer. So I want more of it.

    • Yeah, but it’s FIFA we’re talking about and if you want to be taken seriously around here you’d better be outraged to the point of blindness with everything they say. Good , bad or indifferent.

  2. The only way to make it interesting with “36 or 40” teams would be to expand the inter-confederation playoffs and make them be kind of a prelude to the world cup, make it a year before instead of the useless Confederations Cup.

    It’d be interesting to see, say Portugal visiting Uruguay for a spot or Cameroon vs Sweden in a home and away knockout.

    The final tournament should never be more than 32 teams.

  3. Awesome. Sell World Cup spots for 100 million and have an unbalanced schedule.If it’s good enough for MLS it’s good enough for the world.

  4. Ligue 1 is the first of many I think. Promotion/Relegation in Europe is eventually going to be pushed out by big business – nobody wants their stock to fall…

    • No, it is part of the culture there. It’s more likely the US will adopt pro/rel then the rest of the world will get rid of it. Contrary to what seems to be popular perception, getting relegated isn’t a death sentence – lots of teams bounce right back.

      • But a lot dont. And when they don’t pull a QPR and go right back they stay down for awhile. While I don’t think relegations across Europe will go away I could see the bigger clubs in Europe creating their own league and just avoiding the issue all together.

  5. Holy election gimmick batman!
    How would 36 teams at the WC even work?!?!
    So with 36 do we have 9 groups of 4? The top two wouldn’t be able to go through because then we’d have 18 in the knockout rounds, which obviously doesn’t work.
    6 groups of 6, with the top three going through and one “wild card”? That would add several days to the tournament because of the additional group games and would be convoluted with the wild card.
    12 groups of 3 would just be silly, with two group stage games and a much shorter WC because of fewer games. And how would they get teams down 2,4,8,16 for the knockout stage?

    Just wait until we can go to 40 and have 5 per group…but, I don’t think the need will justify it for at least 15 years.

    • Taking a page from MLS, they’re probably going to the play-in game route for 8 teams. So essentially all of those half spot playoffs are now officially part of the WC.

    • agreed – I dont see logistically how it works. 36 might work for a straight knock-out, but the WC and FIFA makes its money on 2-3 games a day during the group stages for three weeks. And what federation wants to play for the right to go to Russia for 1 game in 2018 and go home after one loss.

    • I hate the idea of expansion but if they do there are two easy solutions with 9 groups of 4.
      Option A- All 1st place teams and 5 best 2nd automatically make round of 16. Bottom 4 2nd place teams play the “knockout round”. Adds two elimination games in addition to the extra 6 group stage games.
      Option B- All 9 1sts automatically in round of 16. All 2nds and 5 best 3rds in “knockout round”. Creates a 7 match “knockout round” before the round of 16. Adds extra World Cup matches with added benefits of needing to win your group or having an extra match (extra fatigue, extra suspension possibilities) and allows pretty much everyone a chance to advance going into their last game (see U20/U17 World Cups). I dislike this option because 23 of 36 would “advance” from group stages which is way too high a percentage for me but I could see FIFA do this for the other monetary reasons

    • how does a 36 team tournament work? my question too. has this guy developed and vetted a plan?

      asides for the play-in game idea you could do 6 groups of 6 where top 2 advance + 4 third place finishers… like the UEFA system

      nothing is going to be as simple as 32; 8 groups of 4. aside for the obvious vote pandering that this is, fifa has to be looking at India, Indonesia, China, Malaysia and the half of the world’s population (and money) that isn’t that involved in global football, on the field that is, and trying to pave the road for their qualification/interest.

    • I agree that 32 is a much better number than 36 but they could make 36 work. One way to do so is to go to two separate group stages. It’s a format that has been used at the World Cup in the past.

      In the first stage, there are 12 groups of 3. Each team plays the other teams in their group once or twice and only the group winner advances. The remaining 12 teams are then split into 4 groups of 3, those teams then play the other teams in their group once or twice and again only the group winner advances. The semifinals and final would then be knockout games.

      They could also do something like the NCAA Basketball Tournament where there are 4 games involving the 8 lowest-seeded teams in the FIFA rankings and only the winners of those 4 games get into the group stages.

  6. Any update on the US U23 roster for Toulon?

    The tournament starts in a few days – you’d think there would be a roster developed.

  7. Rosicky is an underrated player. Even at his age the contributions he had this year were huge. He was their best midfielder when Ozick, Ramsey, wilshere and ox had knocks early in the year.

    • Based on my limited viewing of Arsenal matches, I felt like Francis Coquelin enforcement was the missing piece to that midfield.

    • Rosicky playa some gorgeous soccer. I would take him at Dallas if we had the option. He doesnt need to be fast. He just has a history of injury But that is Arsenal as much as it is him.

  8. Ludicrous and cynical vote-buying suggestion to expand the world cup, particularly since none of the four places will go to Europe, which is arguably the only continent that is underrepresented in the world cup, at least when you consider the quality of teams that miss out from UEFA. Asia already has too many places. Why should NZ essentially get a guaranteed place in every World Cup? OFC and AFC should just merge anyway. Concafcaf and Conmebol getting additional half places isn’t terrible but overal this is such a bad idea it’ll almost make me feel better when Blatter inevitably wins.

    • I hate the expansion of the World Cup field the same way I hated it for MLS, NBA and possibly the NFL next.

      Everyone gets a trophy mentality has no place in professional sports but when money is involved and more can be made…it usually wins out even if it cheapens the quality of the product.

      • Everyone gets a trophy…

        Great point. Actually there are a couple parallels from American youth experience that are relevant here. One is the idea that everyone should be invited. Another is a complete lack of appreciation for simple math. Something other than 2 to the fifth power would create its own awkwardness.

        I used to be a March Madness advocate as well, but when that expanded from 64 to 68 teams, I just kinda lost interest. (Kinda like how I’ve lost interest in the women’s Team Nike for this summer.)

    • A candidate making promises during campaign? That’s not unheard of. What’s he supposed to say? “If elected I’ll ignore the wishes of the majority of my constituency”

      • Isn’t that how Blatter has continued to get elected? He has given more spots (and money) to Africa and Asia and as a result, he gets all of the votes from those federations.

      • that was very smart… he will have all 42 concacaf and 30+ AFC federations voting for prince ali… thats half way to winning the FIFA presidency… conmebol with only 10 votes dont count that much, and EUFA has many federations pissed at Blatter.

        it’ll be close..

    • I disagree with the thought that only UEFA should get additional spots, at least from the reasoning that only European teams are more competitive.

      First, at the end of the day, there are only 4 countries who are regularly capable of winning the WC – Brazil, Germany, Italy and Argentina.

      Each cycle there are 4 other teams capable of winning or making the semi-finals- like France, Spain, Netherlands and lets say Uruguay, Portugal or a home team like England or South Korea..

      Second, UEFA has a bunch of minnows, just like every other federation – the San Marino’s, Leichtenstien, etc. UEFA does a better job of winnowing the minnows out due to their seeding process for their group. Realistically, it is very difficult for a traditionally strong team – Italy, Germany, even England – not to make it to the world cup final based on UEFA’s qualification process.

      I am all in favor of stacking more teams into the finals from the “lower” federations. UEFA already gets one-third of the teams into the finals – that’s enough.

      • “at the end of the day, there are only 4 countries who are regularly capable of winning the WC – Brazil, Germany, Italy and Argentina.” Considering Spain and France have both won since the last time Argentina did, I don’t think that comment makes any sense. In fact Argentina hadn’t even reached a semifinal since 1990 until last year. Plus Italy has gone out in the group stage the last two world cups.

        All traditionally strong teams generally make it from every continent but the quality of the European teams that don’t make it is much higher than any other continent. The solution is to just leave it the way it is. If you add four spots, Europe should get 2 or 3 of them.

      • The other teams that just missed out are Sweden, Ukraine and Romania and yes I think they’re better than the near miss countries from other continents. Would I rather see Zlatan and Sweden in the world cup instead of Uzbekistan or Venezuela? Yes.

      • TOTALLY disagree. Italy’s been knocked out of Group the last two World Cups running and their domestic league is a financial mess. I question whether or not Italy will even remain a “Big Four” league in Europe, much less win another World Cup. I think they could get passed by the French league…one could argue they already have been, since French teams are consistently doing better in Champions League over the last few years, and PSG’s financial clout dwarfs any team in Italy right now. And when I watch Italian teams play, I’m seeing a whole lot of teams playing in more than half-empty, very OLD stadiums with running tracks around them and very little atmosphere. Serie A isn’t what it was, at all.

        I’m not super-sold Argentina remains a true superpower the next cycle either. They had a very old, veteran team and more than a few people have commented how depleted their younger generations have been. The Millienial generation of Argentine superstars just isn’t appearing. And Brazil has sort of struggled for an identity now that [i]jogo bonito[/i] has gone the way of 8-track casettes. I almost think somebody hungrier, humbler, and less-entitled – Chile or Colombia come to mind – will win a World Cup for CONMEBOL before Brazil does again. Teams with machine-like precision (Spain in 2010, Germany in 2014) are trumping style right now.

      • I’d like to point out that the level of a country’s league isn’t always completely reflective or directly related to their national team. One thing to mention about the Italian league is they are one of the leagues with the least foreigners in it compared to some of the others. So their league may not look as flashy as the English premiership but they have a good level made up of majority domestic players. Look at the English premiership full of foreign players but their national team is bad. That’s something that has to be taken into consideration when comparing levels of leagues and their national team.
        As far as Argentina sure they haven’t won anything in a while and seem to be having trouble getting by Germany’s but they will always be contenders.
        And as far as Brazil you can never underestimate them arguably the National Team with the most achievements at all levels. I guarantee they will bounce back and win another cup with in the next 12 years way before any Columbia or Chile ever do. In the cold snowy Russia of 2018 which favors European teams just watch who actually gives the Europeans a run for their money it will be Brazil and Argentina maybe Uruguay but not Columbia or Chile.

    • I’d support adding more teams to the world Cup, but make it 8 so we can drop one more into each group. 4 sounds convoluted. As is, Europe gets too many teams, but the tourney could be more diverse if those winners of the Euro 2nd place team matches then had to face the next best teams from Concacaf and CAf and asia. Might let some different countries get in

    • If you absolutely MUST expand the World Cup, go to 40 teams instead of 36. That way instead of nine groups of four – a truly awkward number, that – you keep the eight groups, and just make each group five teams, giving every team a guaranteed four games. I definitely think the advertisers would be on board with that.

      It would water down the groups, of course, and lead to fewer surprises and fewer cases of Italy, Spain, and England getting knocked out of the group stage, but it wouldn’t completely mess with the playoff dynamic either, which would get totally screwed up by going to nine groups. How does THAT work, anyhow? And of course, it would pretty much eliminate the African nations from escaping group, since their clown-show confederations can’t keep their teams together for more than two games anyhow before the poor food, poor lodgings, and lack of agreed-upon pay blow up their locker rooms, which are usually whatever mouldering old basement that their federation managed to secure as a home base.

      Forty I could live with. 36 is stupid.


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