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World Cup will have record 104 matches in 2026

There will be 104 matches at the 48-team 2026 World Cup in north America, an increase of 40 games on the 2022 edition, after FIFA announced a format change.

March 15, 2023
15 March 2023

The globe’s biggest soccer tournament is going to be even bigger the sport’s governing body has decreed.

The 2026 World Cup will have 104 matches, an increase of 40 on 2022, due to a revised format for the 48 teams taking part. 

Co-hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico the six-week event will now have 12 groups of four teams with the top two and eight best third-placed teams progressing to a round of 32.

Previously the event was to have 16 three-team groups.

“The revised format mitigates the risk of collusion and ensures that all the teams play a minimum of three matches, while providing balanced rest time between competing teams,” said FIFA.

The 16 host cities — 11 in the United States, three in Mexico and two in Canada — now have 24 extra games to stage on top of the 80 they already had for the inaugural 48-team tournament.

Adding about 1.5 million more tickets will also further fuel FIFA’s expected record revenue of at least $US11 bn ($A16 bn) through 2026 from a tournament that will rely on using high-revenue NFL stadiums.

The 32-team World Cup in Qatar last year had a total of 64 matches completed in 29 days. This time there will be 72 matches in the group stage alone.

The tournament has had 32 teams since the 1998 edition with the finalists playing seven games each. Teams reaching the final in 2026 will now play eight matches.

The original plan for the 2026 edition had a total of 80 matches but the decision to increase the number of games to 104 was approved by FIFA’s council on Tuesday, at a meeting in the Rwandan capital of Kigali.

– with AP

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