Will Ireland’s 2026 World Cup hopes be improved by the expansion of the competition?

There was much disappointment when Ireland made their exit from the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. However, there was also a feeling of positivity for most fans as the players displayed much potential, at least in some of the games.

This optimism was further increased by the changes to the 2026 World Cup that may make it easier for Ireland to qualify. Let’s examine this in more detail starting with the team that failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup but still had some impressive moments.

Positives and Negatives 

There is no doubt that Ireland’s defeat at home to Luxemburg, in March 2021, was a huge disappointment. At the time, Stephen Kenny seemed as though he would struggle to hold onto his role as manager of a young Ireland squad.

However, Kenny went on to manage the team to a more impressive 0-0 draw against Portugal. Portugal may have been happy with a point and the team may not have been at full strength, but Ireland’s performance was still solid and defiant. The team also displayed measured play with plenty of movement.

Given this promising performance, and a chance to develop further, many followers of Ireland think they stand a good chance of being more successful in qualifying for the 2026 World Cup. This is especially the case given the new expanded format of the competition.

We recently spoke to a journalist concerning Ireland’s chances; he works for JustGamblers and follows the team’s performance closely. He is also an expert on the USA sports gambling market and looks forward to watching Ireland play in the USA, Canada, and Mexico, the three countries that are jointly hosting the World Cup in 2026.

He told us,

“There is a healthy market for betting on soccer in the USA and there is also a lot of support for Ireland amongst the large Irish community. They are hoping the team qualifies for the finals in 2026 and there is certainly a chance of this happening. The players have a lot of potential that they continue to develop and the expansion of the number of teams from 32 to 48 has to help Ireland’s cause. “

World Cup Expansion

On the face of it, the increased number of teams in the 2026 World Cup should help teams like Ireland by increasing their chances of qualifying.

When the finals of the competition start, in cities across the USA, Canada, and Mexico, there will be 48 teams competing. They will take part in a group stage of 16 groups each consisting of three teams. The top two teams from each group will progress to a knockout tournament of 32 teams. Overall, there will be 80 games across a period of 32 days.

The extra places for teams in the finals will be allocated as follows:

  • Africa – four guaranteed places and an intercontinental playoff slot
  • Asia – four additional places
  • Europe – three additional places
  • North America – three additional places
  • South America – three additional places
  • Oceania – one additional place

The three additional places for UEFA will  give Ireland a slightly better chance of qualification. Their chances will be helped further if the players continue to work together to improve their performances.

Written by YBIG 12

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