How will the new 48-team World Cup format work?

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With the FIFA Council unanimously voting in favor of a 48-team World Cup from 2026 onwards there are plenty of questions on how it will all work.

[ MORE: World Cup expansion confirmed ]

Here are a few answers to those, as we map out exactly what changes will take place.

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Okay. Here we go…


  • Increase from 32 to 48 teams at 2026 World Cup
  • Number of overall games will increase from 64 to 80
  • 16 groups of three teams each
  • Each team will play twice in group stage
  • If a group stage game ends in a draw, penalty shootouts to decide who gets a bonus point could be introduced
  • Top two teams go through from each group to a Round of 32
  • Round of 32 will be straight-elimination, and then Round of 16, quarterfinals, semifinal, final
  • Teams will only play a maximum of seven games if they reach the final, the same as in the 32-team format
  • The tournament will only last 32 days, the same amount of time as the 2014 World Cup
  • Four extra teams from Asian and African confederations will quality, while three more teams from Europe will also quality
  • CONCACAF is likely to move up from 3.5 to 6.5 teams (.5 signifying a playoff spot) plus 6 of the 10 teams from the CONMEBOL region will qualify