104 matches spread over 40 days
After the shortest World Cup of this century, the biggest and longest edition ever will follow in 2026. No fewer than 48 countries will compete in the United States, Mexico and Canada for the World Cup, in an even more elaborate format than previously assumed.
There were supposed to be sixteen pools of three countries. But that will be twelve of four, of which two plus the eight best numbers three will continue. And that combined with an additional knockout round means 104 matches will be played, spread over forty days.
FIFA revealed all that at a congress in Rwandan Kigali, where President Gianni Infantino will be re-elected as president on Thursday.
For the first time since 2002, three countries have already qualified without having to play qualifiers. At that time they were the organizers Japan and South Korea plus reigning world champion France; at the upcoming World Cup, the three host nations will be exempt from the preliminary rounds.
Tension until the last moment
Partly because of the course of the last World Cup in Qatar, FIFA opted for larger groups after all, Infantino announced. “In many pools it remained exciting until the last minute,” he said.
Another reason is that expectations are that grossly more can be earned. According to calculations, turnover could rise to eleven billion euros, almost four billion more than during the last edition.