Last year’s 32-team World Cup in Qatar saw 64 matches completed in 29 days.
The 2026 World Cup will have 104 matches instead of the traditional 64 games, with 48 teams participating, FIFA announced on Tuesday ahead of its Congress in Kigali, Rwanda, due to this edition’s expanded format.
The 2026 edition, co-hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico, will be the first of the quadrennial tournament, which will feature 48 teams. The final is expected to be held on 19 July 2026.
The new format will also stick to four teams per group after a proposal for 16 groups of three was rejected due to concerns about collusion in the final group game. The number of groups, however, will increase from eight to twelve.
The original plan for the 2026 edition called for 80 games, but the decision to increase the number to 104 was approved by FIFA’s council on Tuesday.
The top two teams from each group traditionally go to the round of 16, but for the 2026 edition, the eight best third-place teams will also advance to the round of 32 knockout teams.
“The FIFA Council unanimously approved the proposed amendment to the FIFA World Cup 2026 competition format” FIFA stated.
“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.”
Last year’s 32-team World Cup in Qatar saw a total of 64 matches completed in 29 days. The previous time Mexico (1986) and the United States (1994) held a World Cup, there were just 24 teams.
Since the 1998 edition, the tournament has had 32 teams, with eight groups of four and the finalists playing seven games each. Teams reaching the summit battle in 2026 will now play eight matches in total.
Club World Cup
FIFA said that a 32-team Club World Cup will also be held every four years beginning in June 2025, echoing the announcement made by FIFA President Gianni Infantino in Qatar last year.
Confederation champions from 2021 through 2024 will be able to compete in the new Club World Cup; in light of this, Chelsea and Real Madrid have already qualified.
If either club wins the Champions League for the second time, a club ranking system based on sporting factors will be used to determine which other teams would also qualify.