2026 World Cup | Format

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These are the most important things you should know about the FIFA World Cup format in North America in 2026, with host countries the United States, Canada and Mexico. In a nutshell:

  • The tournament to be held in the USA, Canada and Mexico will be the 23rd men’s football FIFA World Cup
  • For the first time ever, the football World Cup will be held in three host countries
  • There are a total of sixteen host cities, with 23 Candidate Host Cities currently
  • A record number of 48 countries will participate in the finals
  • The World Cup will be held in the summer of 2026, with exact match dates to follow
  • The qualification period in the six FIFA Zones will run from 2023 to 2025
  • The 2026 World Cup in North America be held in four time zones
  • A total of 80 matches are scheduled
  • The group stage starts with sixteen groups of three countries
  • This will be followed by the knock-outs, starting from the round of 32
  • The World Cup final in 2026 will be held in the MetLife Stadium in New York/New Jersey (subject to change)

2026 World Cup Format | Qualifiers

A total of 210 countries that are members of the world football association, FIFA, will compete to qualify for the final round of the 2026 World Cup. There are 48 tickets to be earned. The qualification stage is divided into six zones: CONCACAF (North America, Central America, and the Caribbean), CONMEBOL (South America), UEFA (Europe), AFC (Asia), CAF (Africa) and OFC (Oceania). The format of the qualification system may vary from zone to zone. The qualification period for the 2026 World Cup runs from 2023 to 2025. The exact dates for each continental zone are pending. The distribution of the 48 tickets for the qualifying countries is as follows: Europe is entitled to 16 tickets; Africa can send 9 countries to the World Cup; Asia has 8 representatives; South America gets 6 tickets; North America, Central America and the Caribbean also get 6 tickets; and Oceania has one country that is allowed to compete for the soccer world cup title in the summer of 2026. That makes a total of 46. The other 2 countries qualify through a mini tournament in November 2025. Read more: Format qualifiers FIFA World Cup North America.

World Cup North America finals

The 2026 World Cup format for the finals consists of a group stage, followed by knockout matches in the round of 32, the round of 16, quarterfinals, and the semifinals leading up to the final. There is also the match for third and fourth place: the third-place playoff. The group stage consists of sixteen World Cup groups of three countries each. Each country will compete in a round-robin tournament against the other two countries in their group. As a first in World Cup football history, a winner must emerge from every group match, just like in the knockout stage. Unlike the matches played from the round of 32 onwards, there is no extension in case of a tie and the match proceeds directly to a penalty-kick tiebreaker. After the group stage, 32 of the 48 original countries remain. Read more: Format finals FIFA World Cup North America.

World Cup 2026 News