Will Groups of 3 Ruin the World Cup?
8 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2018
Date Written: June 4, 2018
In 2026, for the first time, the FIFA World Cup will gather 48 men's national teams. It will consist of a group stage made of 16 groups of 3, with the best 2 teams in each group advancing to the knockout stage. Using groups of 3 raises several fairness issues, including risk of match fixing and schedule imbalance. In this article we examine the risk of collusion. The two teams who play the last game in the group know exactly what result will let them advance to the knockout stage. Suspicion of match fixing occurs when a result qualifies both of them at the expense of the third team of the group, and can seriously damage the tournament. We quantify how often this is expected to happen and explain how to build the match schedule so as to minimize the risk of collusion. We also show that forbidding draws during the group stage (a rule considered by FIFA) does not eliminate the risk of match fixing.
Keywords: tournament design, FIFA World Cup, groups of 3, match fixing, collusion
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation