The 2026 World Cup will be the 23rd World Cup, FIFA's four-yearly global soccer tournament. 48 countries will participate, so 80 matches will be played. There are 16 groups with 3 countries each, with the numbers 1 and 2 moving on to the knockout rounds. In the group stage it is no longer possible to draw a draw, so that matches become more exciting. It is not yet known where the 2026 World Cup will be held.
48 participants in 16 groups
Former UEFA chairman Michel Platini proposed on October 4, 2016 to hold the 2026 World Cup with 40 participating countries, instead of the current number of 32 countries. The new chairman Gianni Infantino even wanted to increase the number of participants for the World Cup to 48, including the host country. On January 10, 2017, FIFA decided that the World Cup in 2026 will be held with 48 participants.
The group round is also changing due to the increase in the number of participating countries. From the 2026 World Cup there will be 16 groups with 3 countries each. The numbers 1 and 2 of each group flow through to the knockout rounds, bringing 32 countries to the next round. Because more participants are allowed in the main tournament, each continent can also send more countries. This new setup can also provide more exciting competitions. Previously, the set-up consisted of 8 groups from 4 countries, with 16 countries moving on to the knock-out phase.
Due to the increase in the number of participants, the number of matches increases from 64 to 80 and the number of soccer players from 736 to 1,104 (with selections of 23 players).
Allocation organization WK 2026
The bidding process for the organization of the World Championship in 2026 has already started in 2015. The assignment of the organization was planned during the FIFA congress on 10 May 2017 in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Due to corruption in the allocation of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, FIFA decided on 10 June 2015 to postpone the allocation to 2020.
All members of FIFA can make a bid for the organization of the World Cup in 2026, provided their soccer association has not organized the previous World Championship. The soccer organization announced this condition on 30 May 2015. With this, FIFA has slightly changed their policy, because in the past the 2022 World Cup was not assigned to a soccer association that organized one of the last two World Cups.
This means that countries from the Asian Soccer Association CAF are not allowed to organize the 2026 World Cup, since Qatar has been awarded the 2022 World Cup. The World Cup in 2026 will therefore be allocated to a country from one of the remaining soccer associations: CONCACAF (last time in 1994), CONMEBOL (last time in 2014), UEFA (last time in 2018), CAF (last time in 2010) or OFC (never organized).
FIFA allows countries to make a joint bid for the organization. The 2002 World Cup was the last soccer tournament organized by two countries together, namely South Korea and Japan. Then the world soccer organization decided not to allow this anymore.