Why FIFA changed the format for the 2026 World Cup

The group stage format of the 2026 World Cup was changed to 12 groups of four teams of 16 groups of three teams by the FIFA Council on Tuesday, bringing the total to 104 from 64 in the 2022 tournament in Qatar.


To win a World Cup, a country must play eight games, up from seven since 1974.

The top two teams in each group and the top eight teams in third place advance to another round of 32 which starts the knockout stage. Advancements for third-place teams were eliminated for 1998, when the tournament was expanded from 24 teams to 32.


The change means there will be 104 matches, double the 52 at the 1994 U.S. World Cup, an increase from the 64 at each tournament from 1998 to 2022, and an increase from the 80 under the original format from 2026. That means more content for television channels and more tickets to sell, increasing revenue for FIFA.


The original format for the 2026 tournament in the US, Mexico and Canada was adopted by the Council in January 2017 when the World Cup expanded from 32 to 48 countries from 2026. knocked out the group with one team, which could lead to corruption. The current schedule of having all teams in a group kick off at the same time on the final day was adopted after Gijón’s disgrace at the 1982 World Cup in Spain, when West Germany and Austria knew that a one- or two-goal win by the Germans would be. both countries advance at the expense of Algeria, which played a day earlier. Horst Hrubesch scored in the 10th minute and then neither team threatened as West Germany won 1–0.


FIFA has announced that the final will be on July 19. The location has not yet been announced, with East Rutherford, New Jersey; Arlington, Texas; and Inglewood, California, the top three contenders.

No length has been specified for the tournament, which will likely be between 38 and 42 days. That is up from 29 for last year’s tournament in Qatar and 32 for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The 1994 tournament was held from June 17 to July 17.


FIFA has announced that the mandatory release date for players to be made available to national teams by their clubs is May 25, a day after leagues must play their last pre-World Cup matches. However, continental finals such as the Champions League can take place through May 30, subject to FIFA approval. The release date is followed by a rest period – meaning training is allowed, but national team friendlies are prohibited. FIFA said the 56 days of rest, release and tournament will remain identical to the 2010, 2014 and 2018 FIFA World Cups.


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