The format for the event, co-hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico, remains with four teams in a group after the plan for 16 groups of three was shot down.
The 2026 World Cup will have 104 matches instead of the typical 64 matches due to its expanded format, FIFA, the governing body of the football world, said ahead of its congress in Kigali, Rwanda.
The tournament, which will take place in North America, will be expanded from 32 to 48 teams. It will consist of 12 groups of four teams each, a change from the originally planned format of 16 groups of three, FIFA announced on Tuesday.
“The revised format reduces the risk of collusion and ensures that all teams play a minimum of three matches, while providing a balanced rest time between competing teams,” FIFA said.
Hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico, the event is the first edition of the four-yearly tournament with 48 teams participating.
The 16 host cities – 11 in the United States, three in Mexico and two in Canada – now have an additional 24 games to play on top of the 80 they already had for the inaugural 48-team tournament.
Adding about an additional 1.5 million tickets will also further fuel FIFA’s projected record revenue of at least $11 billion through 2026 from a tournament that will rely on the use of high-revenue NFL stadiums.
The confirmed format means that the top two countries in each group will advance to the knockout round, along with the top eight third-placed teams.
As a result, the finalists and the teams that finish third and fourth will play a total of eight games instead of the current seven.
The last time Mexico (in 1986) or the United States (in 1994) hosted a World Cup, there were only 24 teams.
FIFA also said a 32-team Club World Cup will be played every four years from June 2025, confirming FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s announcement in Qatar last year.
The current version – an annual competition with seven teams – will end after 2023.
Confederation champions from 2021 to 2024 are eligible to play in the 32-team Club World Cup, meaning Chelsea, Real Madrid, Palmeiras, Flamengo and Seattle Sounders have already secured their places.
Europe’s 12 entries can also be determined by a ranking system based on the same four-year period. There is a limit of two teams per country, with exceptions for continental champions.
FIFA also plans to create a new competition annually for continental champions by 2024. The winner of the UEFA Champions League will play against the winner of play-offs with the other continental champions.