According to a report by the New York Times, FIFA is to change the preliminary round mode at the 2026 World Cup in Mexico, the USA and Canada. Play in groups of four instead of three. That means 40 games more.
Even more games in the mega-tournament: According to a report by the New York Times, 104 games are to be played at the 2026 World Cup, 40 more than at previous World Cups. The council of the world association Fifa will decide on a corresponding format change for the preliminary round during a meeting in Kigali (from 1.30 p.m. CET) on Tuesday, the newspaper wrote in an online report. The finals in the USA, Canada and Mexico will be held for the first time with 48 teams.
Instead of the previously planned preliminary round with 16 groups of three, the game is now to be played in twelve groups of four, so the final round would last significantly longer than the previous world championships. The last World Cup to date in Qatar at the end of 2022 was still held with 32 nations and 64 games. World champion Argentina played seven games to win the title.
A maximum of one game is added for each team
For the individual teams, the format change would only add a maximum of one game – for World Cup fans it would be 24 more games compared to the three-player mode. The three-way mode had caused criticism because of the higher risk of collusion, since a nation is forced to be free of play.
The 2026 World Cup was awarded to the three organizers in 2018, the increase from 32 to 48 nations was decided in January 2017. Fifa President Gianni Infantino, who will be elected to another term unopposed at the congress in Kigali on Thursday, had already praised the format with groups of four as a great success in Qatar. “Here the groups of four were absolutely unbelievable, in the sense that until the last minute of the last game it was not clear who would go through,” said the Swiss.
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