Football’s world governing body FIFA says the expanded 2026 men’s World Cup in North America will start with 12 groups of four teams in a change from the original planned format of 16 groups of three.
The next World Cup in the United States, Canada and Mexico will be the first to feature 48 teams, a sharp increase from the 32 sides at last year’s tournament in Qatar.
It means that there will be 104 matches, a huge rise compared to the 64 games played in the 2022 tournament and an increase even on the original plan that the 2026 World Cup would feature 80 matches.
FIFA’s initial plan for 2026 was for 16 groups of three teams, from which the top two countries would advance to the last 32.
The new decided format means the top two in each group will go through to the knockout round along with the eight best third-placed sides.
As a result, the finalists, and the teams finishing third and fourth, will play a total of eight games instead of the current seven.