How do FIFA calculate the world rankings?

Euan Burns
Argentina are trying to take spot from Brazil
Argentina are trying to take spot from Brazil / Marcelo Endelli/GettyImages

The end of a World Cup brings with it changes to the FIFA Ranking of each club, something that has been criticised and ridiculed by many fans over the years as it has placed teams at the top that the average fan would not expect to be there.

FIFA use a very elaborate system in order to generate the rankings and the way they do it was changed in 2018 as it is constantly adapting to the different ways in which the sport is played logistically.

Here is an explainer of how FIFA calculates the men's world rankings and how they stand after the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

What was the recent change to the calculations?

The rankings are worth more than just a number on a chart as your place on the rankings affects draws for qualification stages and at major tournaments.

FIFA have been calculating rankings since 1992 and it is essentially a point-scoring system that they have in place. A big change to the model took place in 2018.

It used to be that an average number of points were earned over a certain period and that number determined a team's place on the rankings. Now, points are continuously added or subtracted from their total, meaning they can move up or down the ranking.

In terms of how FIFA decides to add or subtract points, the calibre of the opponent faced in each recent game is now a key factor. Beating a team who are towards the top of the ranking will be worth more points than beating San Marino or Luxembourg 9-0. The expected result is also brought into the equation.

There is also now more weight given to the circumstances surrounding the game, so friendly wins garner much fewer points than winning matches in the Euros or the World Cup. This next part may look confusing but it is the calculation that FIFA provides.

  • Team A has 1300 points before the match and wins a continental qualifier against team B that has 1500 points
  • For team A the formula is: P=1300+25*(1–(1/(10 exp (-(1300–1500)/600) +1)))
  • For team B the formula is: P = 1500 + 25 * (0- (1 / (10 exp (-(1500-1300)/600) + 1)))
  • Thus, team A wins 17 points and has P = 1317 points after the match
  • Team B loses the same amount of points and thus ends up with 1483 points after the match

The points system is marginally easier to understand. This is how FIFA ranks the games in terms of importance and the result is combined with the expected result to determine what percentage of the below points should be awarded.

  • 5 – friendlies played outside the International Match Calendar windows
  • 10 – friendlies played within the International Match Calendar windows
  • 15 – UEFA Nations League matches (group stage)
  • 25 – UEFA Nations League matches (playoffs and finals), Confederations' final competitions qualifiers, FIFA World Cup qualifiers
  • 35 – Confederations' final competitions matches (before quarter-finals)
  • 40 – Confederations' final competitions matches (quarter-finals and later)
  • 50 – FIFA World Cup matches (before quarter-finals)
  • 60 – FIFA World Cup matches (quarter-finals, semi-finals, third place play-off and final)

Who is top of the FIFA Rankings now?

The FIFA rankings were adjusted for the sixth time in 2022 on December 22, to account for the World Cup that ended on December 18 with Argentina beating France on penalties in the final.

Brazil went into that tournament at the top of the rankings but interestingly, the team top going into a World Cup has never won the tournament. Despite going out in the quarter-finals though, they have remained at the top following the World Cup, but they have lost 0.53 points.

Argentina were the big gainer of course, earning 64.5 points to move up to second in the rankings and just behind Brazil. Belgium dropped from second to fourth as they were knocked out in the group stage and lost 35.41 points.

The biggest point gain in the top 50 was Morocco, whose journey to the semi-final saw them gain 108.85 points and move up to 11. Croatia also climbed to seventh and are now ahead of Spain, Portugal and Italy.

England gained 45.72 points and remain in fifth place. You can see the ranking in full here.