Tournament format for 28 teams

Champions League is played in two halves – round robin followed by knockouts.

First half is played between September and December. It involves 32 teams in 8 groups of 4. Each team plays 3 home and 3 away games. Top two from each group qualify for knockouts played in second half.

Second half is played between February and May. Finalists get to play 7 more matches over four rounds. First three rounds – round of 16, quarter final and semi final – are played home and away. A single final is played at a predetermined venue.

32 teams are seeded and split in 4 pots. A draw decides the formation of 8 groups. Generally there is no surprise in which two teams qualify from a group. Only 1 or 2 groups with evenly matched teams from pot 2 & 3 make the double round robin phase unpredictable.

The second half is partly influenced by luck. Generally the best team wins. Occasionally an inspired team pulls it off.

Any performance, whether individual or team, is part skill and part luck. In an unseeded knockout tournament like FA cup, evenly matched teams may get drawn against each other in earlier rounds. This system may eliminate strong teams while promoting weaker sides based on luck.

An off day means bye-bye for a contender in a knock out tournament. League format ensures that on occasional lapse does not cost the most consistent winner but can’t offer that dramatic showdown between the best on a widely telecast sold out final.

13 games are played by two finalists. They face a maximum of 7 teams out of remaining 31. These 13 games can be played in an alternate league format which involves 28 teams (not 32).

28 teams will be seeded but placed in 7 pots of 4 instead of 4 pots of 8 teams. A draw decides the 4 groups with 1 team each from the seven pots. Top 4 teams in pot 1 will be placed in Group A, B, C & D initially. Repeat the process for teams ranked 5-8 from second pot. Then 9-12 from third pot etc.

Each team will play 6 matches in first round between September and December. If the draw puts pot 1 team at home against pot 2 team then it will play team from pot 3 away. Another draw determines the home/away fate against 4/5 and then 6/7. Thus each team plays three matches at home and three away.

There will be 4 (groups) * 7 (teams) * 6 (matches) / 2 (teams in a game) = 84 matches. 96 games are played over 12 match days in the current format with half the teams playing on a Tuesday and other half on Wednesday. It means 6 mid-weeks are earmarked for group stage. An additional week 7 will be required in the alternate format. 1 of the 7 teams in each group will rest in every match week while other 6 play in three matches.

Presently winner and runners-up move to next round and 3rd team qualifies for Europa League. Top 4 teams will qualify for second round in the proposed format. No thoughts on Europa League in this post.

A draw determines how the old 4 groups are matched to form new group E and F. Let us assume that A will play B and C plays D. We have 2 groups of 8 teams. Each team must face 7 others or in other words 4 new teams from the other group because each team carries forward points against 3 other qualifying teams.

Round of 16 is played in 4 match weeks of February & March. Half the teams play and the other half takes rest during these weeks. It is followed by Quarter Finals in 2 match weeks of April where everyone plays. This proposal recommends that each team plays in 4 of the 6 match weeks while other 2 are rested. At present 24 matches are played in R16 & QF. 32 matches are required in proposed format.

Group winners and runners-up qualify for third round to form the new group G. Points earned against the fellow group team are carried forward. Each team will play one home and one away game in the first fortnight of May against teams from the other group.

Final will be played at a predetermined venue either in second fortnight of May or early June.

In both these formats, finalists get to play 13 matches and 2 other teams play 12 matches. But the proposed format guarantees 10 matches each for the other 12 qualifying teams. This means an involvement for more clubs to remain in contention until April.

How long since the two sides that regularly reach Round of 16, Arsenal and Real Madrid, faced each other? This format ensures 4 Group G teams will face 12 clubs, 12 Group E/F teams get a game against 10 sides, and remaining 12 have an opportunity to play 6 teams. Playing in Europe should be actually about playing as many sides in Europe as possible. That is what this 28 team format offers.


The above proposal required fleshing out equivalence for three qualifying and one play off round of Champions League. Besides no thoughts on Europa League. I prefer league format and dislike penalties so above text remained in my drafts folder when I suddenly noticed that 6+4+2+1= 13 = 6+2+2+2+1.

Tendulkar called for a 25-team Cricket World Cup in 2019. I believe that more teams should get a chance to play official ODIs. I also prefer a shorter World Cup involving Associates. Since I have thoughts for a 28-team tournament I took the opportunity to update above draft version.

I have dreamt up 28 teams and placed them in four groups:

India South Africa Australia Sri Lanka
New Zealand Pakistan West Indies England
Bangladesh Zimbabwe Ireland Afghanistan
Scotland Kenya Netherlands UAE
Canada Uganda Nepal Namibia
Bermuda USA Malaysia Singapore
Italy Tanzania Cayman Islands Argentina

Pot 4 team Scotland will host the bottom 3 Canada, Bermuda and Italy in a quadrangular. Pot 3 team Bangladesh will independently host these three teams in another quadrangular at a different time. Pot 3 & Pot 4 teams are likely to host each other in a regular bilateral tour and one of those games will count towards the group match.

Pot 1 teams will host three other teams from their group for a quadrangular and Pot 2 teams will host 2 remaining countries for a triangular tournament two years before the World Cup. Assume India plays Bangladesh, Canada and Italy and New Zealand plays Scotland and Bermuda. Next season, in year before World Cup, India will play Scotland and Bermuda and New Zealand will host other 3. Bottom 5 teams will be exposed to both the top 2 teams AWAY which will further help if these teams are allowed to play in domestic first class seasons too. Top 8 teams play bilaterals so any 1 of those games will constitute as the group qualifying match.

Top 2 teams will face bottom 5 only once but other teams will face each other more often. Top 2 are unlikely to have any appetite for further games but bottom 5 would like to participate in as many official ODIs as possible (but only one of the several encounters will count towards group standing).

I am not in favour of associates getting games opposite various A teams in lieu of an official ODI. Top 8 teams may choose to field a reserve side but every performance from lower ranked teams should count in official statistics.

Tennis tournaments are categorised. Every game is official but fewer points in Challenger events. Winning an upper tier tournament could fetch 250, 500, 1000, 1500 or a maximum 2000 point for a Grand Slam. Relative Value Model converts runs, wickets, catches etc to points which makes comparison across disciplines feasible. Total points for a match are incremented based on the stage of a tournament and number of teams involved. On the other hand matches involving Associates are discounted to level points earned against weaker sides. Lower ranked teams will improve quicker with official ODIs even if stats are discounted. It is better than the stats not getting recognised at all.

Phase 1 of 28 team World Cup will be spread out across seasons to be played in several countries. That means we will not have the same 15 for the entire tournament. FIFA labels its marquee event as World Cup Finals. The matches played a year in advance are World Cup Qualifiers. Practically every nation participates while a player who did not play the qualifiers may get selected for the main event. Here Phase 1 is largely the qualifier stage to narrow 28 teams to 16.

The main event should begin with two matches per group: One between Pot 1 & Pot 2 teams and another between Pot 3 & Pot 4 teams. After these 8 matches we will be able to identify top 4 teams from each group ending the qualifier stage, Let us assume Group A faces Group B during the World Cup and Group C is pitted against Group D. Effectively we are at Super 8 stage played in two new groups. India will face South Africa, Pakistan, Zimbabwe & Kenya during main event while carrying forward the points against New Zealand, Bangladesh and Scotland. In another group Australia will face Sri Lanka, England, Afghanistan & UAE while carrying forward points against West Indies, Ireland and Netherlands. There will be a total of 32 matches in the second stage of main event.

Group winners and runners-up qualify for next round. Points earned against the fellow group team are carried forward. The 4 teams left will play 2 more matches against opposition from the other group. Assuming Pot 1 teams qualify: India will face Australia and Sri Lanka and carry the points against South Africa. South Africa will also play Australia and Sri Lanka. There will be 4 matches at this stage.

Top 2 teams will face a single final. Thus we will have a short world cup with 8+32+4+1=45 matches with at least 16 teams involved in the main event along with some context for 12 more lower ranked teams.

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