(Kigali) The expanded 2026 Soccer World Cup in North America expanded even further on Tuesday.
FIFA increased the size of the tournament for the second time – six years after the first decision to do so – by modifying the structure of the group stage.
By opting for groups with four countries instead of three, FIFA has created a schedule of 104 games that will last almost six weeks, in June and 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 24 more games, adding to the 80 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 each host 10 games. The United States were scheduled to play the remaining 60, including all knockout ties. Now FIFA will have to decide how to distribute the additional parts.
FIFA said the decision followed a “thorough review which took into account sporting integrity, player welfare, team travel, commercial and sporting attractiveness, as well as team experience. and supporters.”
The new World Cup format will feature 12 groups of four teams instead of 16 groups of three, the plan chosen in 2017. Both options included a knockout round of 32 teams. The final will take place on July 19.
The format ensures that each World Cup team will play at least three times instead of two, resulting in a very dense group stage of 72 games before reaching the knockout stages. The four semi-finalists will play eight games, one more than last year 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 to feature 32 teams.