FIFA Set To Change Format Ahead Of 2026 World Cup

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FIFA has announced that due to the increased format with 48 nations participating, the 2026 World Cup will have 104 matches rather than the customary 64 games.

FIFA Set To Change Format Ahead Of 2026 World Cup

The quadrennial competition will feature 48 teams for the first time in its 2026 edition, which the US, Canada, and Mexico will jointly host. On July 19, 2026, the final will take place.

The new format will also continue to draw groups of four teams after a suggestion for three teams was rejected due to concerns about collusion.

The number of groups will rise from eight to twelve. The FIFA council decided to expand the number of games from 80 to 104 during a meeting on Tuesday.

This change was made from the initial plan for the 2026 edition, which called for a total of 80 matches.

The top two teams from each group traditionally go to the round of 16, but for the 2026 edition, the eight best third-place teams will also advance to the round of 32 knockout round.

“The FIFA Council unanimously approved the proposed amendment to the FIFA World Cup 2026 competition format,” FIFA confirmed.

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“The revised format mitigates the risk of collusion and ensures that all the teams play a minimum of three matches, while providing balanced rest time between competing teams.”

In total, 64 matches from the 32-team World Cup in Qatar last year were played over the course of 29 days.

There were only 24 teams present when the World Cup was last hosted by Mexico (1986) and the United States (1994).

From the 1998 tournament, there have been 32 teams, eight groups of four teams, and seven games played by each finalist.

FIFA Set To Change Format Ahead Of 2026 World Cup

Yet teams reaching the top battle in 2026 will now play eight matches in total.

Unless they are in a significant final, like the Champions League grand finale, clubs will have until May 30 to allow players to join their national teams, according to FIFA, clubs will be required to release players for the World Cup starting on May 25, 2026.

“With 56 days, the total combined number of rest, release and tournament days remain identical to the 2010, 2014 and 2018 FIFA World Cup editions,” FIFA added.

Furthermore on Tuesday, FIFA announced that starting in June 2025, a 32-team Club World Cup will be held every four years, reiterating the previous year’s announcement made in Qatar by its president, Gianni Infantino.

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Chelsea and Real Madrid have already qualified for the Club World Cup because they are the confederation champions from 2021 to ’24.

A club ranking formula based on sporting standards will be used to determine which other team will qualify if either club wins the Champions League once more.

The present edition of the FIFA Club World Cup — an annual competition with seven teams — will be withdrawn after 2023, with a new yearly club competition approved from 2024.

“This competition will feature the champions of the premier club competitions of all confederations and conclude with a final to be played at a neutral venue, between the winner of the UEFA Champions League and the winner of intercontinental playoffs between the other confederations,” FIFA concluded.

A newly designed international schedule with nine-day windows for two games each in March and June, a 16-day window for four matches in September-October, and a final nine-day window for two games in November was also accepted.

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The Fédération internationale de football association (FIFA; French meaning International Association Football Federation) is the international regulatory organization of association football, beach soccer, and futsal.

In 1904, it was established to regulate intercontinental competition between the national associations of Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Located in Zürich, Switzerland, its membership today encompasses 211 national associations.

FIFA Set To Change Format Ahead Of 2026 World Cup

These national organizations must also be members of one of the world’s six regional confederations: CAF (Africa), AFC (Asia and Australia), UEFA (Europe), CONCACAF (North and Central America and the Caribbean), OFC (Oceania), and CONMEBOL (South America).

2026 World Cup

The 2026 FIFA World Cup will be the 23rd FIFA World Cup, the quadrennial international men’s soccer championship contested by the national teams of the member organizations of FIFA.

The competition will be held in 16 cities throughout three North American nations—Canada, Mexico, and the United States—from June 11 to July 19, 2026.

The event will include three countries hosting it for the first time. The reigning champions are Argentina.

The number of teams in this competition has increased from 32 to 48 for the first time.

In the 68th FIFA Congress’s final vote in Moscow, the United 2026 bid prevailed over a challenge from Morocco.

It will be the first World Cup to have multiple countries hosting since 2002. Mexico will become the first nation to host or co-host the men’s World Cup three times thanks to its prior hosting of the tournament in 1970 and 1986.

Canada will be hosting or co-hosting the men’s event for the first time; the United States last held the World Cup in 1994.

The event will return to its usual northern summer schedule after the 2022 edition in Qatar was staged in November and December.

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