The World Cup in 2026 will be divided into 12 groups of four teams.
The expanded 2026 men’s World Cup in North America will begin with 12 groups of four teams, rather than the original planned format of 16 groups of three, FIFA announced on Tuesday.
The next World Cup, which will be held in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, will feature 48 teams, up from 32 in last year’s tournament in Qatar.
“The revised format reduces the risk of collusion and ensures that all teams play at least three matches while providing balanced rest time between competing teams,” FIFA explained.
It means that there will be 104 matches, a significant increase over the 64 games played in the 2022 tournament, and an increase even greater than that.
FIFA’s initial plan for 2026 called for 16 groups of three teams, with the top two countries advancing to the final 32.
The top two teams from each group, as well as the eight best third-placed teams, will advance to the knockout round under the new format.
As a result, the finalists, as well as the third and fourth-place teams, will play eight games instead of the current seven.
The decision follows a dramatic and entertaining group stage at the tournament in Qatar, which convinced FIFA that a change to its original 2026 plan was required.
“Until the last minute of the last match, the groups of four were absolutely incredible,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said in December.
According to FIFA, the total number of days between when clubs must stop playing and release players for international duty and the final will be 56, which is the same as the previous three tournaments.
Nonetheless, the World Cup may be held over a longer period of time, following Qatar 2022, which lasted only 29 days.