World Cup 2026: FIFA confirm STAGGERING new 104-game format for finals in USA, Canada & Mexico as three-team groups are scrapped
- Flagship event heading to North & Central America
- First tournament with 48 teams involved
- FIFA eager to make competition as exciting as possible
WHAT HAPPENED? World football’s governing body held a council meeting in the Rwandan capital of Kigali on Tuesday, with FIFA’s annual congress taking place later this week. Following this, the organisation confirmed wholesale changes to the World Cup set to be co-hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico.
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THE BIGGER PICTURE: Said tournament will already see 48 teams involved for the first time, but further tinkering is being made to the format. It was originally suggested that there would be 16 groups of three, with the top two in each section progressing to the round of 32. That approach would have delivered 80 fixtures – up from 64.
AND WHAT'S MORE: Three-team groups lose the excitement of simultaneous games in the final round of matches, though, and have also created controversy in the past – most notably at the 1982 World Cup – as sides can collaborate to ensure that they both progress to the knockout stages. With that in mind, FIFA have now confirmed there will be 12 groups of four, with the eight best third-placed teams joining the top two in the final 32.
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WHAT NEXT? The extra week required to fit more games in will be found by cutting pre-tournament release periods from 23 days to 16 – which is still twice as much time as players and teams were given ahead of Qatar 2022. It is yet to be revealed what the revised structure will mean for the allocation split between host nations, with the U.S. initially down for 60 matches while Canada and Mexico were due to stage 10 apiece.