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Report: FIFA considering group stage shootouts at 2026 World Cup

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FIFA is mulling the possibility of having penalty shootouts to award a bonus point if group stage matches end level at the 2026 World Cup, reports Adam Crafton of The Athletic.

The expanded men's tournament, being staged in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, will feature 48 teams instead of 32. FIFA is expected to switch to 16 groups consisting of three teams each, with the top two from each trio advancing to the round of 32 - an additional knockout stage compared to the current format.

The competition's configuration has yet to be finalized. Having four-team groups remains an option.

The possibility of using shootouts in the group stage is borne out of fear that three-team groups could end with every team level on multiple tiebreakers.

"Shootouts could indeed be an option for tournaments with groups of three in which you play against two opponents," Marco van Basten, FIFA's former chief officer for technical development, said in 2017. "It can get pretty tight. If one team for instance draws one match 0-0 and wins the other 1-0, there's a high risk that all three teams are level on points and goals in the end."

Shootouts could happen either before the match or after the final whistle, according to Crafton. Holding them after 90 minutes may create opportunities for collusion, though, if a certain result would benefit both teams involved.

Since 1986, FIFA has ensured that final group games are scheduled at the same time to reduce the chances of such outcomes. That move came after the infamous "Disgrace of Gijon" in 1982, when West Germany and Austria played out a farcical match to enable both teams to advance at the expense of Algeria, which played - and won - against Chile earlier in the day.

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