Simulating a 48-team World Cup (nerd alert!)

With FIFA talking about backing away from the truly dreadful concept of three-team groups at the World Cup, I came up with a couple of alternatives — the four-team group under discussion but with a 24-team knockout round rather than 32, and a double-elimination tournament — for a Soccer America article.

The commenters don’t seem enamored of the double-elimination tournament, but that didn’t stop me from running simulations. Take a look at the Google workbook.

I did two types of brackets:

  1. A straight 48-team double-elimination bracket
  2. Double-elimination groups of 6, with the winners advancing to the quarterfinals

Then I simulated each one using different simulators:

  1. for the straight bracket
  2. A combination of Elo ratings and random numbers for the 6-team groups

If you’d like to play around with the simulations yourself, just make a copy. You could even simulate a different qualifying process — in my suggested systems, most qualifying is done in 6-team groups from which the group winners advance and are eligible for byes, the runners-up advance, and certain third-place teams advance to fill Africa’s ninth spot (based on FIFA’s new quotas) and an intercontinental playoff.

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Beau Dure

The guy who wrote a bunch of soccer books and now runs a Gen X-themed podcast while substitute teaching and continuing to write freelance stuff.

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