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Concacaf reveals formats for 2026 World Cup Qualifying, and more


The formats for several Concacaf competitions were revealed on Tuesday, which included new changes to 2026 World Cup Qualifying, the Concacaf Nations League, and more.

Canada, Mexico and the U.S. men’s national team will automatically qualify as hosts for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, the federation announced. There will be an additional three spots for Concacaf nations through a qualifying cycle, as well as two intercontinental playoff positions for which Concacaf teams will fight for.

The World Cup Qualifying cycle will include a final phase of 12 teams, that will be separated into three groups of four teams apiece. The three group winners will automatically qualify for the World Cup, while the two-best second place teams will move on to the intercontinental playoffs.

“These revamped formats and competitions will provide a tremendous platform for our men’s national teams as they prepare to compete on the regional and global stage,” said CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani. “With multiple editions of the Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup on the horizon, as well as an exciting opportunity to compete with South American teams in an official competition, Concacaf Member Associations have a fantastic opportunity to prepare for the FIFA World Cup 2026, which takes place in our region and will be the biggest World Cup in history.”

Format for 2023-2024 Concacaf Nations League

Changes were also made to the 2023-24 edition of the Concacaf Nations League, which will begin in September 2023. League A will be expanded from 12 to 16 teams, with the competition also serving as the qualifying process for the 2024 Copa America, which will be held in the United States.

The 12 lowest ranked teams in League A will take part in group stage play, which will be constructed of two groups with six teams each. Each team will play a total of four games, with two being at home and two being away. The top two finishers in each group will advance to the quarterfinal stage, where they will be joined by the four highest ranked teams in League A, based on the March 2023 FIFA rankings (USMNT, Canada, Costa Rica, and Mexico currently occupy the top four places).

The quarterfinals will be played over two legs with the winners automatically qualifying for the 2024 Copa America, as well as the Nations League finals. The four losers will square off in play-in games to determine the two remaining qualifiers for Copa America.

Due to the expansion of League A, the number of teams in League B will remain at 16 nations, while League C will have nine national teams. League A’s expansion means there will be promotion but no relegation heading into the 2023-24 CNL. The League B group winners from the current tournament will be promoted to League A for the 2023-2024 edition while the League C group winners will be promoted to League B.

For 2023-24, League B will be comprised of four groups of four, with each team playing six matches, three at home and three away. League C will be made up of three groups of three, making for a total of four matches, two at home and two away.

The 2024-25 edition of the Nations League will determine qualification for the 2025 Concacaf Gold Cup, which will take place that summer.


  1. You can’t have Copa America in the USA without the host team. The USMNT should automatically qualified. The can still play for the Nations League title thought.

    • The Copa crowds will be much larger for other countries than it will be for USMNT. Even casuals will be more likely to buy tickets to see Argentina or Brazil than to watch US. If the US can’t win a home and away with Panama or Jamaica they don’t deserve to be in the CA.

      • You are wrong. There are a lot of fans who would attend US games. In the World Cup, the US fans were the third largest crowd in Qatar.

      • What you’re not factoring in is Mexico fans that are US citizens are factored into those US ticket sale numbers. Or any other ex-Pat numbers. Go back and watch the US matches the last time we hosted Copa America, USMNT fans didn’t dominate the crowds. I’m not saying it wouldn’t hurt ticket sales if the US didn’t qualify, but the stadiums would still be pretty full to watch the SA teams and Mexico.

  2. I wish FIFA would just go ahead and supersize the World Cup and expand it to 64 teams instead of the current 48…which is a distinctly unwieldy number and none of the solutions I’ve seen for format look appealing to me. And as a spectacle it certainly wouldn’t suffer having the eyes of another 16 nations riveted to the screen. This is supposed to be the world’s event, let’s make it as big and inclusive as possible while keeping it select enough it’s still quality as a sporting event.

    The US could certainly handle the additions; 2026 would be a fine time to start.

    • Do we need to see El Salvador and Curaçao in the WC? Or Uzbekistan and Oman? I agree that 48 is a weird number but adding another 16 gets to some really flawed teams from NA, Asia, and Africa. You’re basically diluting the pool so much the group stage is virtually decided at the draw, because you only have one maybe two decent teams in each group. Not unlike UEFA qualifying were there’s groups of 6 or 8 but top teams usually have one other team who can even challenge them.

      • It would also add the likes of, say, Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Scotland, another couple teams from CONMEBOL (they can all play excepting maybe Bolivia and Venezuela), some more good teams from Africa (Egypt and Algeria got left out this year, along with the Ivory Coast), and the likes of New Zealand, who are decent-but-not-terrible.

        Yeah, I agree having the likes of Jamaica or Panama make it wouldn’t do much to enhance CONCACAF’s reputation, but it would let some other decent teams into the mix. If you’re doing 48 you’re adding the extra game anyway, might as well get max representation on it. March Madness shows us very clearly upstarts and upsets do happen and that is a good size for the present quality of the world’s programs.

      • The difference is in March Madness if Cinderella wins the favorite doesn’t get two more chances. Take Saudi and Argentina. The match didn’t effect the tournament outcome for either. Honestly I don’t need to see Ireland, if it means having to see Jordan. With 64 you’d be looking at 8 Conmebol, 8 Concacaf, 10 AFC, 10 CAF, 20 UEFA, Oceania 1 and then 7 playoff teams. Yes, perhaps Burkina Faso might knock off Czech Republic, but is that worth it to suffer through Brazil 9-0 over Solomon Islands? With those numbers Paraguay would have qualified this year with a 3W-7D-8L qualifying record. China and Iraq both would have qualified with 1-3-6 records. Obviously qualifying setups might change but that’s the quality that would be joining the world cup field. Since Fifa “had” to expand 12 groups of 4, 1st places advance plus top 4 2nd places. Make the group stage more meaningful. No more playing for ties because you need every point to get out.

    • I wish they would too. 32 was the perfect number for both quality and logistics of the competition. 48 is diluting the field already, in addition to being an unwieldy number. Might as well go all-in and make it 64.


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