How many teams will feature in FIFA World Cup 2026?
Kigali: The expanded 2026 men’s World Cup in North America will begin with 12 groups of four teams, a change from the originally planned format of 16 groups of three, soccer’s world governing body FIFA announced on Tuesday.
The next World Cup to be held in the US, Canada and Mexico will be the first to feature 48 teams, up from 32 sides at last year’s tournament in Qatar.
“The revised format reduces the risk of collusion and ensures that all teams play at least three matches while providing balanced rest periods between rival teams.” FIFA said.
This means there will be 104 matches, a huge increase from the 64 games played in the 2022 tournament, and an increase from the original plan that the 2026 World Cup would have 80 matches.
FIFA’s initial plan for 2026 was for 16 groups of three teams, with the top two nations advancing to the last 32.
The new format means the top two in each group will go into the knockout round with the eight best third-placed teams.
As a result, the finalists, and the third- and fourth-placed teams, will play a total of eight games instead of the current seven.
The decision comes after a dramatic and entertaining group stage of the tournament in Qatar. FIFA that its original 2026 blueprint needed to be rethought.
“The groups of four have been absolutely incredible until the last minute of the last match,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said in December.
Tuesday’s decision was announced after a FIFA council meeting in the Rwandan capital of Kigali, where it confirmed that the next men’s World Cup final will be played on Sunday, July 19, 2026.
FIFA He said the total number of days between when clubs stop playing for international duty and when players are released will be 56, the same as the previous three tournaments.
After all, with Qatar 2022 being held over just 29 days, the World Cup itself could be played over a longer period.
Extended Club World Cup
Infantino is expected to be nominated for a new four-year term as president as he stands unopposed for re-election at Thursday’s FIFA congress.
Expanding the World Cup has been a priority for Infantino since his election in 2016, when he took over from world football chief Sepp Blatter in disgrace.
The last World Cup held in North America, in the United States in 1994, featured just 24 teams before France added 32 four years later.
The number of venues for the 2026 final will double, from eight stadiums in Qatar last year to 16.
Eleven locations will be in the United States, three in Mexico and two in Canada.
FIFA predicts a huge increase in revenue over the four-year period to 2026, from $7.5 billion to $11 billion over the four years to 2022.
The body is also hoping that a new, expanded 32-team Club World Cup will also boost revenue.
FIFA said on Tuesday that the competition will start in June 2025 and will determine qualifiers every four years along with club rankings.
However, an annual competition will also be held, similar to the current seven-team Club World Cup which is due to cease after the 2023 edition.
The annual competition features the six continental club champions and culminates with a final at a neutral venue between the winner of the UEFA Champions League and the winner of the play-off between the other teams.
FIFA said the annual tournament was approved “in view of the need expressed by the confederations to encourage competition for the champions of their premier club competitions to play each other”.