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More teams, more matches and more days: FIFA changes the World Cup format to 2026

FIFA World Cup.

Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Months after the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the International Federation of Associated Football (FIFA) decided to break the status quo of football’s most prestigious national team competition and announce a revolutionary change in format.

In a meeting that took place in Kigali, Rwanda, on the occasion of the FIFA Council, the change that will see the World Cup in a totally different way from what was known in the past was approved.. For the 2026 ecumenical contest that will be played three-way in Mexico, Canada and the United States, there will now be 48 countries.

The news was known through a FIFA statement where it is highlighted that the decision was studied in detail. “The revised format mitigates the risk of collusion and ensures that all teams play a minimum of three matches, while providing balanced rest time between competing teams.”

The proposal was unanimously approved and they even revealed the dates on which the championship will be played in three years. “The 2026 FIFA World Cup Final will be played on Sunday, July 19, 2026, and the mandatory release period will begin on May 25, 2026, after the last official club match on May 24, 2026 (they can there are exceptions).

Changes for the 2026 World Cup

In addition to the increase in National Teams to 48, the classic 64 matches will go to 104 and will take place over a period of 39 days. To be world champion, seven games will no longer be needed and now there will be eight commitments.

The reason for this extra match is that after the group stage there will be a round of 16 finals and, later, there will be the round of 16, quarterfinals, semifinals and final.

Another of the modifications is also in the first round, where there will now be 12 groups of four selected instead of the traditional eight. No longer will only two teams advance, but the eight best third place from each squad will also qualify.

The classification prior to the World Cup will undergo changes, as the quotas will increase in each of the confederations.

UEFA will go from 13 teams to 16; Africa will now have nine places instead of five; Asia previously had four and a half places and now it will have exactly eight; Conmebol will jump from four and a half to six and Concacaf will go from three and a half to six. In the case of Oceania, the half quota will be changed to a full one.

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