At its ongoing congress in Kigali, Rwanda, FIFA — the governing body of world football — has approved a further change to the structure of the World Cup starting from the 2026 edition. In addition to the already decided increase from 32 to 48 participants, the tournament will have a total of 104 matches and no longer 80 as initially assumed.
This expansion will be due to the fact that the 48 participants will no longer be divided into 16 groups of three teams but into 12 groups of four, with the top two and eight best third-placed teams qualifying for the round of 32. Compared to the format used in Qatar, eight games will have to be played to reach the final, one more.
FIFA argues that these changes will benefit the integrity of the tournament, ensuring a higher number of competitive matches and at the same time balanced rest periods among all participants.
But in this way the duration of the World Cup will further increase and matches will be added to an already very busy international calendar, something that has long worried both the players’ union, due to the many commitments to the detriment of rest, and the coaches, who denounce the lack of time devoted to preparation.
The 2026 World Cup will be played between Canada, the United States and Mexico. The date of the final was confirmed by the FIFA congress: it will be Sunday 19 July 2026, while the club teams will have to make players available from 25 May.