FIFA reveals expansion of World Cup to 64 teams
FIFA increases number of teams to 48 teams, to play 104 matches.
This was disclosed at the FIFA congress in Kigali.
There would be 16 groups as opposed to the traditional 12 groups.
Due to the increased format with 48 teams participating, the 2026 World Cup will include 104 matches rather than the customary 64 games, according to FIFA, the world’s soccer governing organization, who announced this on Tuesday following their Congress in Kigali, Rwanda.
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, the final will take place.
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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. However, there will be 16 groups instead of the current 12 groups.
The original plan for the 2026 edition had a total of 80 matches but the decision to increase the number of games to 104 was approved by FIFA’s council at a meeting on Tuesday.
Traditionally the top two teams from each group advance to the last 16 but the 2026 edition will also have the eight best third-placed teams moving into the knockout round of 32.
“The FIFA Council unanimously approved the proposed amendment to the FIFA World Cup 2026 competition format” FIFA said.
“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.”
The 32-team World Cup in Qatar last year had a total of 64 matches completed in 29 days. The last time Mexico (1986) and the United States (1994) hosted a World Cup, there were only 24 teams.
The tournament has had 32 teams since the 1998 edition, with eight groups of four and the finalists playing seven games each. But teams reaching the summit clash in 2026 will now play eight matches in total.
FIFA said a 32-team Club World Cup will be played every four years from June 2025, confirming the announcement made by its president Gianni Infantino in Qatar last year.
Confederation champions from 2021-2024 will be eligible to play in the Club World Cup, which means Chelsea and Real Madrid have already qualified.
Should either club win the Champions League again, a club ranking calculation based on sporting criteria will be used to determine which other team will qualify.
The current version of the FIFA Club World Cup — an annual competition with seven teams — will be discontinued 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 play-offs between the other confederations,” FIFA said.