The FIFA World Cup is one of the biggest sporting events in the world, and takes place every four years. Watched by millions of people worldwide, they take to all forms of social media to post their opinions and show their support and emotions.
This week, football’s governing body announced that it is to expand the final tournament from the current 32-team format to a 48-team format, allowing an additional 16 teams to become part of football’s flagship international competition. This change will take effect from 2026.
We are yet to find out where the final tournament will be held or which continents the additional 16 nations will come from, but what we do know is that there is already a lot of discussion on social media about the event – nine and a half years before it will even take place.
The last tournament was held in 2014 in Brazil and saw lots of shocks and upsets, as well as shedloads of goals. England’s failure to make it out of the group stage at the expense of minnows Costa Rica and the fall of the Spanish were only semi-talking points of the tournament after the semi-final surprise nobody was expecting. Host nation and pre-tournament favourites Brazil went crashing out of the competition in humiliating style after being thrashed 7-1 by eventual winners Germany in their own back yard. Queue social media!
Prior to the start of the competition, anticipation and excitement about the tournament was already rife on social media, with Twitter introducing its hashflag feature to add to the build-up. Before the tournament had even begun, statistics showed that it was more talked about than the previous tournament of 2010 in South Africa.
Once the first semi-final was underway, Twitter records were sent tumbling as it became the most talked about sporting event in history with more than 35 million tweets being sent during the game. The record for the number of tweets per minute was also obliterated.
With social media going into overdrive during this monthlong tournament, this makes me think that an expansion of the tournament to include more teams from around the globe would see the world of social media become the real winner. More teams means more global support, which could quite easily translate into more talk online, and more social media records tumbling.
By 2026, you would expect more of the world to have access to internet and as a result of social networks like Facebook, Twitter and whichever new ones are invented in the meantime, then there is even more scope for these networks to have new records set for users talking not just about a sporting event, but any event in modern history. This is more valuable than the extra few million that will undoubtedly go into FIFA’s back pocket.
By the time the inaugural 48-team competition begins in nine years’ time, the world of social media may have significantly evolved and become more interactive for fans, beyond simply writing a 140-character update of what is on their minds.