Throughout the ages, the sport has evolved to try and cater to the needs of all participants and the audiences that watch in their millions.
Few sporting events areas worldwide in terms of their appeal as the FIFA World Cup, which was first held back in 1930, and over the subsequent century of footballing action, change has been influential in growing the event into the most watched sporting competition on the planet.
Back in 1930, only 13 teams took part in the inaugural World Cup in Uruguay, with the hosts going on to win their first of two World Cup titles.
Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, the competition was impacted heavily by World War II. The number of sides taking part fluctuated before an established rule of 16 became the norm from the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland.
Having the elite 16 sides in the world inevitably increased the level of competition at the showpiece event every four years, but with the game growing exponentially all over the world, there were some incredible football teams missing out on World Cup qualification.
By the 1982 World Cup in Spain, FIFA had recognized the strength of the game globally and expanded the competition to 24 sides, enabling more teams to taste the magic of the World Cup.
This evolution and trend continued by the 1998 World Cup in France, where 32 teams took part – breaking down into 8 groups of 4, with the top two sides in each group progressing to the last 16.
As a format, footballing purists have always felt that having 32 teams from all over the world participating in a World Cup is the acid test, and it looked to be the format of choice moving forward.
However, FIFA have announced that the 2026 World Cup in Canada, Mexico, and the United States will see 48 teams taking part – a groundbreaking move by those who run the game.
The decision to tweak the format of the 2026 FIFA World Cup will impact hugely on a number of developing nations, all looking to establish themselves on the world’s biggest footballing stage.
Five-time winners Brazil start as the tournament favorites in the Gulf, with their squad littered with talents, and they could be tough to stop at 5/1.
European interest is headed up by defending champions France, who blew away all before them in Russia in 2018, and they should be there or thereabouts again at 6/1 under Didier Deschamps.
According to the British betting sites, elsewhere, England and Spain represent the best of the rest at 7/1 and 17/2, respectively, in what should be a memorable tournament in Qatar.
It will also significantly impact the revenue streams most bookmakers and punters achieve in the World Cup, with a wider range of standards and abilities on display, which will have a direct influence on how matches pan out.
Inevitably, betting on the World Cup has always been and continues to be hugely popular with sports gambling enthusiasts, and adding more matches to the roster, will only make for more opportunities for punters and bookies alike.
Turning the attention to the 2022 incarnation of the World Cup in Qatar, it will be the final competition with just 32 teams taking part, and with the event taking place in the winter rather than the summer, it will be intriguing to see where each country is at.