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2026 FIFA World Cup to Have 12 Groups of 4 Teams

The stage is set for a footballing event like no other as FIFA, football’s world governing body announced the format for the 2026 men’s World Cup in North America. The tournament will feature a whopping 48 teams, a significant increase from the 32 teams at the last World Cup in Qatar and the biggest in the history of the event.

The change in format means that the tournament will start with 12 groups of four teams rather than the originally planned 16 groups of three.

Details Behind Expansions

The decision to expand the World Cup comes after the thrilling group stage matches in the last tournament held in Qatar convinced FIFA to rethink its original blueprint for 2026. FIFA President Gianni Infantino was particularly impressed by the excitement generated by the groups of four and how they kept the fans on the edge of their seats until the very end.

In the new format, each team will play a minimum of three matches, and the top two teams from each group, along with the eight best third-placed sides, will progress to the knockout round. This will result in 104 matches, a massive increase from the 64 played in Qatar 2022 and an even bigger rise than the initially planned 80 matches.

Accommodation for the Expansion

To accommodate the increase in teams and matches, the number of venues will double from 8 stadiums in Qatar last year to 16 in North America. Eleven venues will be in the USA, while Mexico and Canada will have three and two, respectively.

These venues will be the first World Cup held across multiple countries since the 2002 South Korea and Japan tournaments.

 


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The tournament will be played over 56 days, the same duration as the previous three tournaments. However, the World Cup may be played over a longer period, as Qatar 2022 was held over just 29 days.

Additional Details on the FIFA Expansion

With the expanded format, FIFA has projected a massive increase in revenue, up to $11 billion from $7.5 billion in the four years leading up to 2022.

Of course, with more matches comes the concern of player fatigue and burnout. The Professional Footballers’ Association has expressed concerns about the physical and mental toll this expanded format could take on players.

However, FIFA has assured everyone that they have taken steps to ensure that players have adequate rest time between matches.

FIFA is also introducing a new, expanded 32-team Club World Cup, which will start in June 2025 and be held every four years. Club rankings will determine the qualifiers, and there will also be an annual competition featuring the six continental club champions, as well as a final between the winner of the UEFA Champions League and the winner of play-offs between the other teams.

It’s clear that FIFA is committed to keeping football exciting and engaging for fans. And with revenues projected to increase in the four years leading up to 2026, it’s also a great time for the sport’s financial future.

 


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