Next FIFA World Cup will have 16 more teams and 40 extra games
The 2026 FIFA World Cup will look quite different compared to last year's tournament — and not only because it will be played in the summer again.
Driving the news: FIFA, the governing body of soccer, on Tuesday approved a new, expanded format for the men's World Cup, which will include 48 teams playing a total of 104 games.
- The tournament will have 12 groups of four teams. The top two teams in each group will progress to the knockout stage, along with the eight best third-place teams, FIFA said.
- The World Cup final match will be played on July 19, FIFA said.
By the numbers: The new format adds 16 teams and 40 games to the previous World Cup schedule.
- Teams will have to play eight games total instead of seven to reach the final match.
Worth noting: At one point, FIFA considered 16 groups of three teams, with the top two teams going through to the next round, ESPN reports.
- "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," FIFA said on Tuesday.
Why it matters: This means more soccer for fans, but new headaches for event organizers, who will have to clear more dates at the venues for games, according to the New York Times.
- Stadium officials are already juggling schedules for summertime sports, concerts and other events.
- Some players’ unions and clubs may be concerned that their players have to play more games, per the NYT. The year-round soccer schedule is already jam-packed, which can lead to injuries.
Zoom out: The 2026 World Cup will be hosted by North America, with games to be played in the U.S., Mexico and Canada.
- FIFA has already announced the 2026 World Cup match sites, which include cities such as Atlanta, Boston, Mexico City and Toronto.
- The 2026 format was expected to have 60 matches in the United States, with Mexico and Canada hosting 10 each (80 games total).
Go deeper: FIFA picks World Cup 2026 venues for U.S., Canada, Mexico