The next FIFA Men's World Cup is getting ready, with teams planning their way to the tournament and victory. The 2022 edition in Qatar was marked by a legendary final where Argentina triumphed over France. The 2026 World Cup is shaping up to be just as crazy, with the competition expanding to 48 teams and taking place in the United States, Canada and Mexico. While the tournament may seem far away, each team's journey to the World Cup will begin long before then.
How were the slots allocated?
All six confederations will have at least one team in the expanded tournament, with no inter-confederation play-offs before the knockout tournament.
The World Cup hosts will still qualify automatically, basics, with their place taken out of their confederation's quota.
The recommended places for each confederation are:
- Africa - 9 (vs. 5)
- Asia - 8 (from 4 or 5)
- Europe - 16 (up from 13)
- North America, Central America and the Caribbean - 6 (from 3 or 4)
- Oceania - 1 (up from 0 or 1)
- South America - 6 (from 4 or 5)
How will the elimination tournament take place?
If the proposals are ratified, as planned, it will be one team from each confederation, with the exception of UEFA, with the final team coming from the host country confederation.
Two teams will be ranked according to their Fifa ranking and then play the winners of two knockout matches involving the four unranked teams, with the prize being a place in the World Cup.
The play-off match will be played in the World Cup host country, with November 2025 suggested as a possible date for the 2026 qualifying play-off. It will also serve as a test event for the main tournament.
UEFA has reached its stated goal of 16 places. Its president, Aleksander Ceferin, has made it clear that this would be his demand in exchange for his support for an expanded tournament.
Ratification will be simple as the heads of the confederations have split the issue.
- The knockout tournament is a new idea.
It could spell the end of the Confederations Cup as FIFA has described the new tournament as a test event. FIFA wants to expand the Club World Cup as a summer tournament, and moving the qualifying tournament to November could create the necessary space in an already busy calendar.
- However, there are still significant issues to be resolved in the qualification processes.
Conmebol (South America) has been granted six slots. Given that there are only 10 countries in the confederation, questions have been raised about how to make qualification an attractive proposition for broadcasters, etc., given the ease with which some countries will qualify.
Inter-confederations play-offs World Cup 2026
At the end of each confederation's World Cup qualification cycle, inter-confederation playoffs will be held.
For 2026, two teams will qualify through this route with six teams to participate in the playoffs.
The four-game tournament will be played in the United States, Canada or Mexico, with the top two teams in the playoffs earning a direct berth in the deciding games.