ANKARA – FIFA on Tuesday confirmed that the 2026 World Cup will be played with 48 teams divided into 12 groups, and will have 104 matches up from 64.
"... 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.
"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," FIFA said in a statement.
The FIFA Council on Tuesday met before the 73rd FIFA Congress in Rwanda's Kigali.
The world football's governing body said they made a thorough review, which considered "sporting integrity, player welfare, team travel, commercial and sporting attractiveness, as well as team and fan experience" to expand the next World Cup.
The 2026 World Cup finals in US, Canada and Mexico, which will have 104 matches, will include a new last 32 stage prior to last 16.
It will be the first World Cup to be co-hosted by three countries. The previous World Cups, including the one in Qatar, featured 32 teams.
According to the previous format, the best two nations in eight groups qualified for the last 16 phase, while the rest 16, who came third or fourth in the group stage, were eliminated from the World Cup.
In addition, FIFA confirmed that the next World Cup final has been scheduled to be played on July 19, 2026 as the flagship football event has returned to its traditional calendar.
Qatar 2022, which was won by Argentina in December, was the first World Cup tournament in the northern hemisphere that was not held during the summer season.
The US last hosted the World Cup in 1994.
Mexico, on the other hand, hosted the World Cup finals twice, in 1970 and 1986.
Meanwhile, for the first time, Canada will host a men's World Cup tournament.
FIFA previously named the 16 cities that will host the 2026 World Cup. They are Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, New York/New Jersey, Philadelphia, San Francisco Bay Area, and Seattle in the US, Guadalajara, Mexico City, and Monterrey in Mexico, and Toronto and Vancouver in Canada. (Anadolu)