FIFA announce World Cup 2026 will have four-team groups and 24 more games than previous editions


FIFA leaders have agreed to a change in format that will add 24 more games than originally planned to the 2026 FIFA World Cup, which is set to take place in Canada, the United States and Mexico.

The governing body’s council announced on Tuesday that they have approved a new format for the World Cup, which will feature 48 teams instead of the original 32.

This change will add 24 more games to the tournament, making it a 104-game tournament that will last nearly 40 days.

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Initially, FIFA had planned to split the teams into 16 groups of three for the first tournament with 48 teams. However, a change of heart reportedly came after the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, which saw several exciting finishes in the final matches of the group stages. Officials were concerned about teams possibly being eliminated after only two games in the three-team group format, so FIFA opted to revisit the issue.

As a result, the four-team group format will stand, with the top two and eight best third-placed teams progressing to the last 32.

The heads of football’s six confederations unanimously supported the proposed format for the World Cup during a meeting with FIFA President Gianni Infantino, with no objections raised. The decision was then confirmed at Tuesday’s meeting of FIFA’s 36-member governing council, which is known for approving proposals agreed upon by regional heads.

“Based on a thorough review that considered sporting integrity, player welfare, team travel, commercial and sporting attractiveness, as well as team and fan experience, the FIFA Council unanimously approved the proposed amendment to the FIFA World Cup 2026 competition format from 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,” said FIFA on the decision.

“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.”

Under the new format, the champion and runner-up, as well as the third and fourth-place teams, will each play eight games, one more than the current seven.

The expansion is also expected to generate additional revenue for FIFA.

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