(Kigali) The 2026 FIFA World Cup in North America expanded on Tuesday.
FIFA increased the size of the tournament for the second time – six years after first deciding to do so – by adjusting the group stage structure.
By choosing groups of four countries instead of three, FIFA has drawn up a schedule of 104 matches that will last approximately six weeks, in June-July 2026, in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
The 16 host cities – 11 in the United States, three in Mexico and two in Canada (Toronto and Vancouver) – will host another 24 matches, in addition to the 80 matches already scheduled for the World Cup, which for the first time in its history will host 48 countries.
The original plan called for Canada and Mexico to host 10 matches each. The other 60 were to be played by the United States, including all of the knockout matches. Now FIFA will have to decide how to distribute the bonus parts.
FIFA said the decision came after a “comprehensive review that took into account sporting integrity, player welfare, team travel, commercial and sporting attractiveness as well as team and supporter experience”.
The new format of the World Cup will feature 12 groups of four teams instead of the 16 groups of three, the plan chosen in 2017. Both options included a 32-team knockout round. The final will be held on July 19.
The format ensures that every team plays in the World Cup at least three times instead of two, which leads to a crowded group stage of 72 matches before reaching the knockout stages. The four semi-finalists play eight matches, more than last year’s match in Qatar.
The entire 2022 World Cup in Qatar featured 64 matches for the seventh and final edition of the 32-team format. The 1998 World Cup in France was the first in which 32 teams participated.
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