Daily Mail

USA World Cup goes supersize with 104 games & 48 teams


The 2026 World Cup will be an eye-watering 40 matches bigger and 11 days longer after FIFA confirmed a switch to 12 groups of four teams, inviting a quarter of the world to the biggest sporting event on the planet.

There will be 104 matches — three more than the first five World Cups combined — between 48 teams in 39 days at 16 venues in the US, Mexico and Canada.

The top two teams from each group, plus the eight best thirdplace teams, will qualify for a new last-32 knockout round.

FIFA, whose Council ratified the changes in the Rwandan capital Kigali yesterday, wants to bring in more than £9billion in revenue from the tournament, which will be the first of the 23 World Cups to be held across three countries.

They had considered using 16 three-team groups, but that would have only produced 80 matches, though still 16 more than in Qatar last year.

Three-team groups were also seen as risky due to one team sitting idle in the final round of games, leaving more opportunit­y for teams to engineer results that suit both of them to reach the knockouts. The expanded tournament is good news for sports minnows as nearly a quarter of FIFA nations will qualify.

Oceania are guaranteed at least one spot for the first time, meaning that New Zealand, ranked 105th in the world, or the Solomon Islands, at 136th, will likely qualify for 2026.

Africa will have nine guaranteed places, up from five, Asia eight instead of four, North America six — including the three hosts — up from three, South America up to six from four and europe to 16 from 13.

FIFA also confirmed yesterday that the Club World Cup will expand to 32 teams from 2025, and be held every four years rather than annually.

Chelsea and Real Madrid — the two most recent Champions League winners — will be given automatic spots in the inaugural tournament, alongside the 2023 and 2024 european champions.

The current format invites seven teams, consisting of the six continenta­l champions plus the domestic title winners in the host country.

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