2026 World Cup Expands Format To 104 Games

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2026 World Cup Expands Format To 104 Games


Despite the controversy surrounding it, the 2022 World Cup was a tournament filled with memorable moments. The United States returned after its 2018 failure and advanced to the round of 16. Morocco became the first African nation to make the semifinals. Lionel Messi finally lifted the trophy as Argentina triumphed over France in the most thrilling final of our lifetime.

If you left the 2022 World Cup wanting more, you’re in luck. The 2026 World Cup in the United States, Canada, and Mexico will feature even more soccer.

FIFA already announced a while ago that the 2026 World Cup was expanding from 32 to 48 teams. The plan was to feature 16 groups of three teams with the top two teams in each group advancing to a new round of 32 to make up the inventory of the lost group stage game.

However, FIFA is expected to announce on Tuesday that they are nixing the 16×3 group idea and sticking with the four-team group format. There were two big reasons why the 16×3 had critics. First, it eliminates the excitement of the simultaneous kickoffs in the final group stage game. There were some thrilling games in the final round of group play in 2022. Secondly, it increases the likelihood that teams might collude in the final game of group play if a certain result would allow both teams to advance.

2026 World Cup Keeps The Four Team Group Format

Instead, the 2026 tournament will feature 12 groups of four teams with the top two teams in each group advancing and the top eight third-place teams also qualifying for the knockout stage. This format will come with some criticism as well, largely from club teams.

The tournament can’t expand its footprint too much, so it’s expecting to play 104 games over a period of 39 days. To make up for the added time in the tournament, FIFA is expected to cut down on the preparation time teams will get for the tournament. The club season is already long and there will be concerns over the amount of rest players get leading up to the World Cup and the teams that make the Final playing eight games.

Expanding the field to 48 creates a logistical nightmare. It was also an inevitability. FIFA only really cares about making money and expanding the World Cup gives it more inventory. That equals more money. Also, the European federation opposed the expansion and the rest of the federations find them arrogant so the other federations were on board. Plus, it means the smaller federations will get more teams in the tournament. Sure, CONCACAF embarrassed itself in 2022 with four teams in the field so let’s give them three more teams.

Nevertheless, while FIFA continually angers people for what it says and does, the product on the field is usually great. And how many fans are going to complain about having more World Cup games?

Author: Dan Weiner

Hailing from Atlanta and attending college at the University of Texas, Dan is passionate about sports, particularly college football and soccer. He's a diehard Atlanta pro sports and Texas Longhorns fan. He likes every sport and will watch anything and everything the weirder the better. He joined Betsperts after an 11 year career in television production at ESPN.