The 2026 World Cup finals in the United States, Canada and Mexico will feature 104 games, including a new last-32 stage, with plans for three-team groups abandoned for revised four-team groups format.
With the approval of the format by the FIFA Council at a meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, on Tuesday, the 2026 World Cup will be the first to feature 48 teams.
The FIFA Council unanimously approved the proposed amendment to the 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 change will result in a marathon men’s soccer championship — 48 teams playing 104 games over almost 40 days in three countries — and see the champion and the runner-up, as well as the third and fourth-place teams, each play eight games instead of the current seven.
The total of 104 World Cup matches will be a significant increase from previous plans that had called for 80 games, and 40 more than last year’s tournament in Qatar, which featured 32 teams.
The preparation period for 2026 between a player’s release and his country’s first match will be about two weeks, double what was in place for the finals in Qatar last year, but shorter than the previous two tournaments.