A 33 team World Cup draw format
The Football Association of Ireland(FAI) has requested FIFA for an extra place at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa so making the number of teams 33 instead of the usual 32.
In the unlikely event that FIFA grants this request, it will result in an interesting World Cup with one group having 5 teams. This changes the whole dynamics of the World Cup draw in order to accomodate the extra team and the extra four matches and the byes to go with them.
So in this post I will take a quick look at what a 33 team World Cup would look like.
In a normal 32 team World Cup the draw has eight groups of four teams each. Basically each group cannot have two teams from the same confederation apart from teams from the UEFA confederation. Also no group can have three teams from the UEFA.
So in a 33 team World Cup draw I think there will still be eight groups but one of them with 5 teams. This will result in a 68 match World Cup instead of the normal 64.
The teams in the five team group will have to play four matches each in the group stages and the two top teams would qualify for the second round.
It will not be possible to play the last group matches at the same time because one team in the five team group will have a bye and so FIFA will have to think about this one.
In this case I think the draw would have to put Ireland in that group because they are the ones who requested that extra place and therefore may not mind playing four games instead of three.
So the question is what happens to the other four teams. I think they will have to choose a team each from the other confederations including UEFA but maybe not put France in there.
So to fit in with the extra four matches in the group stages and still finish on the scheduled date, 11 July 2010, this five team group would have to start their matches before the opening ceremony, 11 June, 2010.
The opening match is normally played by the host nation(2006) or the defending champions(2002) but in the 33 team World Cup the opening match would have to come from the five team group and before the opening ceremony.
As I said the 33 team World Cup will be an interesting proposition and so lets wait and see what FIFA will do.
If you have any other ideas of how the 33 team World Cup can go just post that in the comments.