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World Cup 2026 with 12 groups of four teams each

KIGALI – The expanded Men’s World Cup 2026 in North America will start with 12 groups of four teams, in contrast to the originally planned format of 16 groups of three teams, the world football governing body FIFA announced on Tuesday.

The next World Cup in the United States, Canada and Mexico will be the first with 48 teams, a significant increase from the 32 teams at 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 ensuring a balanced rest period between competing teams,” said FIFA.

This means there will be 104 games, a huge increase compared to the 64 games of the 2022 tournament and even an increase over the original plan that the 2026 World Cup would be 80 games.

FIFA’s original plan for 2026 called for 16 three-team groups, from which the top two countries would advance to the bottom 32.

The new format means that the top two finishers in each group will advance to the knockout stages along with the eight best third-place finishers.

As a result, the finalists and third- and fourth-place teams will play a total of eight games instead of the current seven.

The decision comes after a dramatic and entertaining group stage at the Qatar tournament convinced FIFA that a reconsideration of the original 2026 plan was needed.

“The groups of four were absolutely incredible until the last minute of the last game,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in December.

Tuesday’s decision came after a FIFA Council meeting in the Rwandan capital of Kigali, which confirmed that the next Men’s World Cup final would be played on Sunday 19 July 2026.

FIFA said the total number of days between the suspension of play and the release of players for international use and the final would be 56, identical to the previous three tournaments.

Still, the World Cup itself could be held over a longer period of time, after Qatar was only hosted over 29 days in 2022.

– Extended Club World Cup –

Infantino is expected to be called up for a new four-year term as president as he stands for re-election unopposed at FIFA’s Congress on Thursday.

Expanding the World Cup was a priority for Infantino following his election in 2016, taking over from the disgraced Sepp Blatter at the top of world football.

The last World Cup in North America, in the USA in 1994, featured just 24 teams before growing to 32 teams four years later in France.

The number of venues for the 2026 finals will double to 16 from eight stadiums in Qatar last year.

Eleven venues are in the United States, three in Mexico and two in Canada.

FIFA forecasts a huge increase in revenue over the four-year cycle through 2026, from $7.5 billion in the four years through 2022 to $11 billion.

The body also hopes a new, expanded 32-team Club World Cup will boost revenue as well.

FIFA announced on Tuesday that the competition will start in June 2025 and take place every four years, with club rankings determining qualification.

However, there will also be an annual competition, similar to the existing seven-team Club World Cup, which is set to be discontinued after the 2023 edition.

The annual competition features the six continental club champions and concludes with a final at a neutral venue between the winner of the UEFA Champions League and the winner of the play-offs between the other teams.

The annual tournament was approved “due to the desire expressed by the confederations that the champions of their main club competitions compete annually to promote competitiveness,” FIFA said.

Source: Crypto News Deutsch

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