Sunday, March 26, 2023

FIFA announces new 104-game, 12-group format for 2026 World Cup

The next edition of the World Cup would see the expansion of participating nations from 32 to 48 teams.

• March 14, 2023

The world’s football governing body, FIFA, on Monday, at its 73rd Congress in Kigali, Rwanda, approved a 12-group, 104 matches format for the 2026 World Cup billed to hold in U.S., Canada and Mexico.

The next edition of the World Cup would see the expansion of participating nations from 32 teams to 48 teams in which the format for the expanded competition had been under speculation since it was first announced last year.

There were reports from some quarters that FIFA had considered a 16-group format with three teams each with the top-placed nations from each group to progress directly into a round of 16 phase.

Also, the idea of penalty shootout after a draw in the group stage phase to decide a winner was also flaunted in some sections of the media.

However, the FIFA Council has finally made approved amendments to the proposed format for FIFA World Cup 2026, with an unanimous decision to scrape a 16 groups of three to 12 groups of four with the top two and eight best third-placed teams progressing to a round of 32.

A total of 104 matches will be played at the next edition of the World Cup, with three matches guaranteed for each participating nation and a maximum of eight for the semi-finalists and finalists, up from the previous seven matches.

They 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.”

It was also decided at the meeting that the FIFA World Cup 2026 final has been scheduled to take place on Sunday, July 19, 2026.

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