For the 2026 World Cup, FIFA has officially decided to go back to a four-team group structure. Instead of 32 nations, there will be 48 at the next World Cup, which will be held in the United States, Mexico, and Canada.
The competition was scheduled to include 16 groups of three teams due to the rise in the number of competing teams. Following an exciting last round of group games at the 2022 World Cup, the proposed format was questioned.
The FIFA Council has announced a number of significant developments ahead of the 73rd FIFA Congress in Kigali. This included the choice to return the 2026 World Cup to a four-team group format.
The decision will increase the number of matches from the original proposal of 80 to 104, creating a new round of 32 stage. The top two-finishing nations and the eight best third-placed teams proceed to the knockout stages.
Commenting on the decision, FIFA said:
"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."
Also, FIFA announced the schedule for men's international competitions from 2025 through 2030. This includes the decision to hold the 2026 World Cup final on Sunday, July 19.
The six international windows per year schedule for women's football will remain in place for 2024 and 2025, according to the world governing body of football.
FIFA has established a task force to examine player welfare in response to worries about player well-being caused by the club and international schedule.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino said:
"FIFA promoted a truly global approach to the discussions on the international match calendar, which considered the perspectives of all key stakeholders."
"Our fundamental objective is to have clarity on this topic, and to have meaningful football matches while protecting the well-being of the players and recognising that many regions need more competitive football."
FIFA approved the access list for the new 32-team Club World Cup, which will start in June 2025, among other developments.
Chelsea have been officially announced as one of the 12 European teams that will compete in the event thanks to their Champions League victory in 2021.
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