When it started, Russia 2018 set itself up for the World Cup with the most goals scored. There were 13 goals in the first two days of the tournament, highlighted by a 3-3 thriller in the Iberian Derby.

That pace eventually tailed off. Thirteen games in the group stage finished 1-0, with plenty more finishing 2-0 or 2-1.

Defense is something to be admired. It requires tenacity, consistency and power. However, everyone loves goals. The more goals scored, the better. After all, the ‘game of the century’ featured seven goals scored between West Germany and Italy in the 1970 World Cup semifinal.

Notable other memorable games outside of the World Cup Final featured a string of goals. Most recently, France beat Argentina, 4-3, in the round of 16 in 2018. Four years earlier, the Netherlands got revenge on Spain with a 5-1 thrashing in each nation’s first game. That same tournament, Germany put seven past hosts Brazil, sending the country into a state of sporting shock. These are just the last couple of years.

What is the World Cup with the most goals scored?

In the first World Cup, 13 teams competed for a total of 18 fixtures. That year, teams scored 70 goals for nearly four goals per game. Remarkably, that yields just under four goals per game.

Flash forward 68 years, and the current record for the World Cup with the most goals scored occurred. At France 1998, teams scored 171 goals, more than 100 more than the original rendition. That tournament is tied for the World Cup with the most goals scored.

However, take that with a grain of salt. Over the years, FIFA increased the number of teams competing in the competition. Or, it modified the format, as was the case in 1974 to 1982, when the competition used two group stages to determine finalists. In terms of number of games played, notable jumps occurred in 1982 and 1998. At Spain 1982, the number of games jumped from 38 to 52. Sixteen years later, France 1998 introduced the 64-game format that persists today.

World Cup Goals Scored Leading Scorer
France 1998 171 Davor Šuker (CRO) 6
Brazil 2014 171 James Rodriguez (COL) 6
Russia 2018 170 Harry Kane (ENG) 6
South Korea/Japan 2002 161 Ronaldo (BRA) 8
Germany 2006 147 Miroslav Klose (GER) 5


Consequently, the number of goals scored jumped in those years as well. From 1978 to 1982, an increase of 44 goals with the 14 additional games transpired. When France won on home soil 16 years later, the 12 game addition brought 30 more total goals.

With the 2026 World Cup scheduled to increase the number of teams to 48, the ensuing number of games jumps as well. Consequently, expect another jump in total goals and a record for the World Cup with the most goals scored.