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FIFA proposes slot allocation for 2026 World Cup

The 2026 World Cup will be the first tournament to feature an expanded 48 team field, and now FIFA has revealed how many slots each confederation will receive under the new format.

The Bureau of the Council proposed a new slot allocation for the World Cup for 48 teams, beginning with the 2026 edition, as well as a revamped playoff system for the final two open slots. The new allocation sees partial slots done away with and sees each confederation increase their total presence, though some more than others.

UEFA sees the smallest change, moving from 13 slots to 16. CONCACAF AND CONMEBOL both jump to six total slots, up from 3.5 and 4.5 respectively. Oceania finally gains an automatic presence, moving from 0.5 slots to 1 full slot, while the Confederation of African Football’s allocation rises from 5 to 9. The biggest jump comes from the Asian Football Confederation, however, which nearly doubles their allotted spots from 4.5 to 8.

The automatic bids account for 46 of the 48 overall teams. The final two teams will be determined by a six-team playoff, with the teams coming from each confederation except UEFA, plus one additional team from the host country’s confederation. The two highest teams in the FIFA World Rankings will automatically be placed into the semifinals, while the remaining four teams play a knockout round to determine their opponents. The playoff tournament will be held in the host country as a test event for the upcoming World Cup, and a tentative date of November 2025 has been set for the 2026 edition of the tournament.

The news is extremely positive for smaller federations, in particular those just outside of qualification spots in their federations. New Zealand will benefit greatly as the biggest nation of Oceania, while CONCACAF qualification is now more open to sides outside of the traditional top three of the U.S., Mexico, and Costa Rica.

21 comments
  • KenC

    “CONCACAF AND CONMEBOL both jump to six total slots, up from 3.5 and 4.5 respectively. … The biggest jump comes from the Asian Football Confederation, however, which nearly doubles their allotted spots from 4.5 to 8.”
    There aren’t 8 good teams in the Asian confederation. Total pandering to get China qualified.

    Like

  • chad

    wtf with this?: “The two highest teams in the FIFA World Rankings will automatically be placed into the semifinals”.

    Like

    • MidWest Ref

      Semi – finals for the final two spots into the 48. The proposal is for a play-in tourney the year before the actual WC. This strikes me like the “play-in games” for the NCAA basketball tournament.

      The two highest ranking teams would be like Ivory Coast at 45 and Kuwait at 66. They play the winners of Tahiti v. El Salvador and Bolivia v. Morocco – or something like that

      Like

    • James Knowles

      And the watering down of the competition begins in 2026. Let’s hope the tournament doesn’t lose its luster.

      Liked by 1 person

      • quozzel

        It will not. Making a tournament bigger never, ever hurts and getting more teams in only makes the event far bigger because a lot more of the globe will have a horse in the race.

        What it does hurt is devaluing qualifying matches. Qualifying for the WC now only presents a whiff of danger to the power squads in each confederation; under the new format there’s basically none and the top teams could easily be all but qualified as much as two years out.

        I would say it probably does rob the group stage of some drama, since there will be fewer true “Groups of Death” and you won’t see a group with not one but two Top-8 Euro sides like Germany and Portugal together with Ghana and the USA.

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    • MidWest Ref

      It will be very interesting to see how things shake out if we go to 16 groups of 3, with just the winner moving into the knock-out rounds.

      Will there be one UEFA team in each group? Does that mean you could see a 3 team group with Germany (UEFA) Brazil, and Australia?

      Will there be seeding pots with top 15+host in Pot A, then random draws? Currently there are the top 8 teams (7 plus the host), then pots based on federation. That could see a group of Mexico (host), Croatia and Ghana.

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    • AzTeXan

      That may be true, but certainly not due to CONCACAF. I don’t think people truly appreciate how much the growth of MLS and USL with provide opportunities for the nations below the US/MEX/CR

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    • Rob

      Some of those “crappy teams” are a few nationalized players away from being at our level.
      Maybe they can start attracting better talent once their chances at the world cup increase.
      There are enough Germans, Brazilians and Argentinians to go around.

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  • Sko

    This is bullshit. There is no way there are 48 teams that deserve to make the WC! So with 6 teams going from CONCACAF, tell how exciting is qualifying…….wait for it…..yeah it’s not!…….

    Liked by 1 person

    • jb

      I made this point when we first learned they were expanding the WC. It will hurt US Soccer (and Mexico) because it renders the two year qualification meaningless. Right now that is when we play our only “serious” matches. It will take excitement away from the fanbase, leaving only the world cup finals itself as a must-see event. I guess we can hope comnebol and concacaf come together to give a copa America on the 2nd yr in between WC cycles, ala the Euros. I have to agree with the posters saying it’s a shameless money grab that will lower the quality of soccer in the WC.

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      • Chase

        You’re wrong. The Mex and CR matches will be just as hotly contested and and watched because those are always big matches on their own… Furthermore, if we weren’t in “must wins” right now, we could actually develop the younger talent likely to be on the pitch come WC ’18 instead of guys like Zusi.

        Furthermore, we’ll be playing in the Copa every cycle by then, so we’ll be getting even more important matches.

        The only bad thing is if they go to a really crappy format…

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  • Adam in Cali

    So this basically means there’s no need for The Hex by the time WC Qualifying rolls around for 2026, right? So much for, “meaningful, pressure-packed games” for the USMNT… let’s just merge with CONMEBOL already.

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  • bryan

    makes no sense. this is going to hurt CONCACAF. and why does Asia need 8?! so lame. everything about this is weak.

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    • MidWest Ref

      I’m not sure how this hurts CONCACAF.

      But, when you compare it to the increases in Asia (8) and Africa (9) it surely shows that FIFA still thinks that we are in the weakest federation. I don’t agree and have consistently said that Africa and Asia are “overrated” in terms of their play. There may be a good team or two each WC cycle, but I would state that Mexico and US are better than the top 2 from those federations on a consistent basis.

      I also think that over the past two WC cycles, the fourth place CONCACAF team has beaten the 5th place Asia team (T&T for 2010 and Mexico for 2014).

      Like

      • bryan

        i say it hurts in terms of meaningful, pressure packed qualifying games. Honduras and Panama games would have been much less stressful if this was in place today. that’s all I mean by it. those games are critical for the pressure of the actual World Cup. i’d rather combine with COMNEBOL and do 12 because it would keep pressure tight. this is ignoring the whole travel piece that would be tough if we combined.

        on the rest of your post, i pretty much agree. although I think Africa has quality we simply don’t get to see because their qualifying is so unforgiving. but Asia…it makes NO sense at all. it’s a grab to get China in because that is $$$$. and the rest just to fill up the outrageous number of slots.

        Liked by 1 person

    • AzTeXan

      They still have a third of all teams represented. Seems pretty fair for a world cup

      Like

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