The field will be divided into 12 groups of four nations each. As in previous editions, the top two teams after group play will advance to the knockout round — but unlike before, the top eight third-place teams will also advance, creating a 32-team knockout bracket.
FIFA’s originally proposed format to accommodate the extra teams would have created 16 groups of three for 80 total games.
🗣 FIFA said: “Based on a thorough review that considered sporting integrity, player welfare, team travel, commercial and sporting attractiveness, as well as team and fan experience, the FIFA Council unanimously approved the proposed amendment to the FIFA World Cup 2026 competition format from 16 groups of three to 12 groups of four with the top two and eight best third-placed teams progressing to a round of 32. The revised format mitigates the risk of collusion and ensures that all the teams play a minimum of three matches while providing balanced rest time between competing teams.”
🔜 The FIFA Council also confirmed the qualifying criteria for its proposed expansion of the FIFA Club World Cup competition in 2025. FIFA said a 32-team Club World Cup will be played every four years from June 2025.
⬇ The number of teams will be distributed as follows:
▪ UEFA – 12
▪ CONMEBOL – 6
▪ Concacaf – 4
▪ CAF – 4
▪ AFC – 4
▪ OFC – 1
▪ Host nation – 1
The current version of the FIFA Club World Cup — an annual competition with seven teams — will be discontinued after 2023, with a new yearly club competition approved from 2024.
A newly structured international calendar was also approved with nine-day windows in March and June for two games each, a 16-day window for four matches in September-October, and another nine-day two-match window in November.