Flying cars, space colonies on remote planets, robots, artificial intelligence and ruthless societies. Futuristic fables have never approached football as a theme or setting. Its authors will have thought, with good sense, that there are other more interesting questions about which to suspect. That the game would always be more or less the same and that there wouldn’t be much to imagine on the matter. However, as reality strives to surpass fiction, it did not even take the hands of Aldous Huxley and Philip K. Dick, or the eyes of Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott to create an inordinate tale of soccer science fiction. Only reached an official idea in the right hands so that brutal changes in the organization of the most popular game on the planet are part of our real, true destiny.
This story is not about what might happen several millennia from now, in a post-apocalyptic world too alien and far away to be haunted. No, the revolutionary project that aims to radically change the structure of international tournaments is scheduled to be implemented in the coming years and it will be the same fans that today populate the stadiums who will experience it firsthand. The future has arrived.
In dystopian reality (or utopian, depending on who sees it) that we will present in these pages, FIFA won the fight and managed to impose its idea, without changes or buts. It is the year 2028. The images of the World Cup won by Brazil in 2026 are still very sharp in memory. Neymar, recovered after a turbulent couple of years, lifted the trophy to the sunny New Jersey sky and had an epic retirement, on par with his Argentine friend long before. That final against Germany that also acted as a rematch of 1-7 of 2014 is so close that it can be relived without effort. Nevertheless, the planet already beats another World Cup, the first of the new era.
Saudi Arabia believed that it might be their time to organize it, because they were the drivers of the forceful innovation and, it is known, they have all the resources at their beck and call. But Europe is Europe and UEFA needed some comfort after losing its political fight to keep the old calendar. For this reason, it was decided to inaugurate this period in the same place where it all began. The story is circular, so England earned the right to host the 2028 World Cup.
The choice of the host country came weeks after the final confirmation of the new calendar. The debates were long, the consultations varied and all the actors participated: fans, journalists, players, leaders. Since mid-2021, the planet became a giant and cosmopolitan roundtable discussion that in 2023 reached the definitive conclusion: the calendar born 1930 would die in 2026.
After the World Cup played in the United States, Mexico and Canada in 2026 and won by Brazil, the friendly matches of the National Teams were extinguished. At least in the hitherto known sense. In the new world, national teams only contest official championships, organized by FIFA and by national associations. In June and July of the odd-numbered years it is time for continental competitionss (Euro, America’s Cup, Gold Cup, Nations Leagues) and in October the World Cup Qualifiers. While, in the middle of the even years the World Cups are played and in October the Cup Qualifiers, if required.
The recruiters were forced to change the way they work. They can only get their players together twice in the season, but at least they can train with them for a whole month. The mini concentrations of a week in which little was played, traveled a lot and trained nothing were finished. This allowed many coaches who once refused to work for a national team due to the short time they had to raise their game idea, to begin to see it as a great challenge for their careers to take charge of that. intense month of competition and, at the same time, forming a game idea.
In 2027, Uruguay made the Olympic turn in a renovated Centenario stadium and was crowned champion of America for the 16th time. On the same day, at the Olympic in Rome, the Netherlands surprised and beat England in the final of the Euro. In Concacaf, the United States beat Mexico in the usual definition; in Asia South Korea achieved its first title since 1960; in Africa the Ivory Coast reigned with a generation of great players raised in European football and in Oceania New Zealand did not give rise to any bells.
As in 2026, 48 selected qualified for the World Cup via the Qualifiers played in October 2027. The massive turnout makes it almost impossible for the hits to be related to absences. That is to say, the powers, who are the same as always because in football there is no place for great cultural changes not even in dystopias, they managed to get through without problems.
Yes there were “surprises” between medium and young. Venezuela qualified for the first time to the detriment of Chile; Armenia and North Macedonia unleashed great national holidays with their rankings in Europe, where Hungary finally crystallized its triumphant return after more than forty years of absence; and Gabon, Uzbekistan, Curaçao and Oman earned the right to their all-time World Cup debut.
The Eliminatory, condensed into one month, transformed a competition that was always long-winded into a tournament in which arriving well makes a difference. In other words, those teams that managed to find an operation quickly gained an advantage over those that needed more time. The calendar change means that. There is no longer any chance that time helps to improve and those who react more quickly to difficulties prevail. And those who know best how to take advantage of its virtues. It is, in short, thus the vertigo of the new life.
The format of the World Cup that was played for the most part in England but which also had matches in Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland was the same as in 2026: 16 groups of three teams in which the first two advanced to the 16th finals. This fixture also helps the candidates almost never suffer to get into the second phase. In fact, the only surprise in that regard was the rapid elimination of Belgium, which was already far from the one that dominated the FIFA rankings at the beginning of the decade anyway. Nigeria and South Korea left her behind.
In the first round of direct elimination the unexpected results began: Spain was eliminated against Mexico and Denmark surpassed Uruguay, which boasted a generation of great players. Argentina, Brazil, England, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, the Ivory Coast and Mexico triumphed in the round of 16, defeating Japan on penalties after a spectacular 3-3 and finally overcoming their eternal barrier to get into the top eight.
The quarterfinals began a month after the opening match. Although it seems contradictory, In this era, the World Cups are longer and teams have a little more time to recover between games. That makes the shows better, because the fatigue is not the same as in previous championships. England went big against an euphoric Old Trafford and beat Brazil; Argentina brought out their experience against the Ivory Coast with Messi in the box at St. James Park; Germany beat Italy by the minimum and Mexico wrote another chapter of its fairy tale against the Netherlands.
England-Mexico and Italy-Argentina were the semifinals. The locals, in a match that will be talked about as much as the immortal final of 1966, beat La Tri 2-1. Not even the VAR, with all its technology for many at this infallible height, could prevent the controversy from erupting around the two English goals at Wembley. Mexico will mourn defeat forever. For the result, of course, but also for the impotence that injustice generates. Meanwhile, Azzurra triumphed on penalties at Anfield Road and eliminated the South American team.
The Euro 2020 final was reissued on the same stage but this time with a different ending. What on an afternoon in July 2021, with the ravages of the covid-19 still in process, ended with an Italian celebration by way of penalties, on a night of the same month in 2028 culminated with a legendary popular party throughout England. Rubia Albión, with an agonizing goal from captain Phil Foden, beat Azzurra 2-1 and won his second world title on the same grass as the first. The circular story.
And then the world didn’t have to wait four years to relive the party. In 2030, the centenary year, Uruguay and Argentina made the necessary efforts to receive the Cup. It was already said that the World Cup was losing prestige due to the proximity of each edition, but beyond those exclamations, each new player that was born, he did with the same dream as Diego Maradona: to play a World Cup. That will never change.