IMAGE: The 32-team World Cup in Qatar last year had a total of 64 matches completed in 29 days. The last time Mexico (1986) and the United States (1994) hosted a World Cup, there were only 24 teams. Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images
The 2026 World Cup will have 104 matches instead of the traditional 64 games due to the expanded format with 48 teams taking part, global soccer governing body FIFA said on Tuesday.
The 2026 edition, which will be co-hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico, will be the first edition of the quadrennial tournament where 48 teams are taking part.
“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,” FIFA 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.”
The 32-team World Cup in Qatar last year had a total of 64 matches completed in 29 days. The last time Mexico (1986) and the United States (1994) hosted a World Cup, there were only 24 teams.
The tournament has had 32 teams since the 1998 edition, with eight groups of four and the finalists playing seven games each. But teams reaching the summit clash in 2026 will now play eight matches in total.
The original plan for the 2026 edition had a total of 80 matches but the decision to increase the number of games to 104 was approved by FIFA’s council at a meeting on Tuesday.
The new format will also stick to drawing four teams in a group after a proposal for a three-team group was shot down over fears of collusion.
Traditionally the top two teams from each group advance to the last 16 but the 2026 edition will also have the eight best third-placed teams moving into the knockout round of 32.
India get three slots for AFC competitions in 2023-24 season
The Qualifiers for the AFC competitions 2023-24 for the Indian clubs will be played between April 4 to May 3, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) said on Tuesday after the continental body offered the country three slots.
The Asian Football Confederation has allocated three slots to India — one in the Champions League group stage, one in the AFC Cup group stage, and one slot in the AFC Cup Qualifiers.
The winners of the Indian Super League Shield 2021-22 (Jamshedpur FC) and winners of the same in the 2022-23 season (Mumbai City FC) will fight it out in a one-off match on April 4. The match will be played between the matches of the Super Cup and the winners of the game will get a direct slot in the AFC Champions League 2023-24 group stage.
As far as the AFC Cup group stage is concerned, this slot will be determined between the winners of the I-League 2021-22 (Gokulam Kerala FC) and the winners of the Super Cup 2023.
If the winners of the Super Cup 2023 have already qualified for Slot 1, then Gokulam Kerala FC will get an automatic spot in the AFC Cup 2023-24 group stage.
If Gokulam Kerala FC win the Super Cup 2023, then they will secure their qualification for the AFC Cup 2023-24 group stage.
The qualifying match for Slot 2, should it be required, will be played on April 29.
For the AFC Cup preliminary round, the slot will be decided between the winners of the ISL 2021-22 Trophy (Hyderabad FC) and the ISL 2022-23 Trophy (Bengaluru FC or ATK Mohun Bagan FC).
If Hyderabad FC have already qualified for Slot 2, then a qualification match for Slot 3 will not be required, and the winner of the ISL 2022-23 Trophy will take the slot in the AFC Cup 2023-24 preliminary round.
If the winners of the ISL Trophy 2022-23 have already qualified for Slot 2, then a qualifying match for Slot 3 will not be required, and Hyderabad FC would automatically play the AFC Cup 2023-24 preliminary round.
The qualifying match for Slot 3, should it be required, will be played on May 3, or as decided by the AIFF, the federation said.
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