FIFA Council Accepts World Cup 2026 Format, Expands Matches to 104 & Teams from 32 to 48

The FIFA Association in a meeting confirmed the proposal for the 2026 World Cup's new format. The tournament used to have 32 teams since the 1998 edition with eight groups of 4 and the finalists playing 7 games each. However, there will be a total of 104 matches in 2026. Read here about more amendments and the men’s and women’s competitions separately. 

FIFA World Cup 2026
FIFA World Cup 2026

The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) recently announced its approval of the international match calendars. The 2026 World Cup format has been accepted by the council and the number of matches has greatly increased from the conventional 64 to 104.

Moreover, the 2026 World Cup matches are scheduled to be jointly hosted by US, Canada and Mexico. The match formats are being extended including the previous participation from 32 to 48 teams. The global soccer regulating body FIFA propounded on March 14, 2023 (Tuesday) that the 2026 calendar has been issued as the 73rd FIFA Congress was held in advance in Kigali, Rwanda. 



During the meeting, several important decisions were made considering the future of men’s and women’s competitions. The international match calendar discussion was further followed by a detail-oriented consultation procedure. 

2026 FIFA World Cup Format

After reviewing various factors such as players' well-being, sporting integrity, team and fan experience, team travel, sporting and commercial activities, etc, the council approved the entire proposed amendments. As per the 2026 edition, the tournament’s final match will be held on July 19, 2026 (Sunday).

Also, the 16 groups of three have been changed to 12 groups of four having the top 2 and 8 best teams which will proceed to a round of 32. The original plan for the 2026 tournament had a total of 80 matches however the decision came out to elevate the number of games to 104 and this proposal was approved by FIFA in a recent conference.



Men’s International Matches 2025-2030

According to the new calendar, the full structure of matches is given on the official website. The Final is to be played on February 19. It will begin on May 25, 2026, while the last official club match will be organised on May 24, 2026. 

The combined number of rest, release and tournament days will remain the same as mentioned in 2010, 2014 and 2018 FIFA World Cup formats. The detailed calendar will be published in a few days.

Women’s International Matches 2024-2025

It will be having six international windows a year and a dedicated task force has also been assigned to carry out player welfare principles including compulsory test periods. 


FIFA stated that a 32-team Club World Cup will be played every four years commencing from June 2025, as confirmed by President Gianni Infantino in Qatar in an official announcement made last year. 

Champions Eligibility

Confederation champions will be eligible to play from 2021-2024  in the new Club World Cup which implies that Chelsea and Real Madrid are already qualified for it. The club ranking calculation will be based on sporting criteria and this ought to be used to evaluate which other team will be applicable.

As per the current version of the FIFA Club World Cup, an annual competition with seven teams will be discontinued after 2023 due to the new release of the club competition to be adopted from the year 2024.

FIFA Federation asserted that this competition will involve featuring the champions of the premier club competitions from all confederations. It will further conclude with a final round which will be played at a neutral venue between the winner of the UEFA Champions League & the winner of intercontinental play-offs between the other confederations.

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