In the AFC FIFA Zone – the continental union for Asia – 46 countries will participate in the World Cup qualifiers. Eight or nine of these countries will qualify for the final round: the 2026 World Cup in North America with a total of 48 national teams participating. The groups and the schedule of the qualification series of the AFC countries for the World Cup, with all matches, dates, and times, will be listed here as soon as they are known. See also: Draw qualification World Cup 2026.
Qualification AFC for World Cup 2026 | Asian qualifiers
The qualifying series in the FIFA zone AFC for the 2026 Football World Cup runs from October 2023 to October 2025. In the qualifying zone of the Asian Football Confederation, 46 countries compete for eight to nine tickets for the World Cup in North America. There are four rounds and in November 2025 there will be the intercontinental play-offs for (among other) one AFC country.
The AFC qualifying series consists of four rounds: two qualifying rounds, the actual qualifying round and the AFC play-offs. Eight countries qualify from this. In addition, there is a rematch for one AFC country in the final, intercontinental FIFA WC 2026 play-offs. Will that representative from Asia finish in the top two of that play-off mini-tournament? Then in 2026 there will be not eight, but nine Asian countries at the World Cup in the USA, Canada and Mexico.
Note: 47 countries are members of the Asian Football Confederation. However, the Northern Mariana Islands only participate in the qualification for the AFC Asian Cup, not in the qualification for the FIFA World Cup.
When does the World Cup qualifying series start and end in FIFA Zone AFC?
Qualification for the 2026 FIFA World Cup in Zone AFC (Asia) will begin in October 2023 and end in November 2025. These and subsequent dates are based on the preliminary FIFA Match Calendar and are subject to change. The first qualifying round in the FIFA continent AFC will begin on October 12 and last through October 17, 2023. The second qualifying round in Asia will begin on November 16, 2023 and last until June 11, 2024. The third World Cup qualifying round in zone AFC will begin on September 5, 2024 and ends on June 24, 2025. The fourth placement round is in September and October 2025. This will be followed by intercontinental play-offs, including one country from the FIFA Zone AFC, in November 2025.
First Round | Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 1
The qualifiers within the AFC start with a first preliminary round. The 22 countries of that football continent that are lowest on the FIFA Ranking of that moment participate in this. So, what counts are the positions of the AFC countries in the FIFA Ranking. Of the 47 AFC countries in total, the teams ranked in the AFC-relevant places 47 to 26 will play in the first qualifying round. A draw results for these 22 countries in eleven mutual matches. Each team plays an away game and a home game.
When: October 12-17, 2023 (subject to change)
Which countries will continue?
The eleven winners can continue to dream of qualifying for the final round of the football world championship. They will proceed to the second (preliminary) round: the AFC Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2.
Second Round | Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2
The second qualifying round consists of the eleven winners of the first qualifying round, supplemented by the top 25 teams from the FIFA / AFC Ranking. This makes a total of 36 teams. These countries are divided into nine groups. Each country will play in a group of four teams. Within each group, each country plays six games: home and away against each of the three opponents.
When: November 16, 2023 – June 11, 2024 (subject to change)
Which countries will continue?
From each of the nine groups, the top two countries will advance to the formal start of the World Cup qualifying series in Asia: the AFC Asian Qualifiers.
Third Round | AFC Asian Qualifiers
The eighteen countries that have successfully passed the AFC preliminary rounds will continue the road to the 2026 FIFA World Cup in the AFC Asian Qualifiers. Moreover, they also qualify for participation in the AFC Asian Cup in 2027.
In the battle for a World Cup ticket, the eighteen remaining countries play in three groups of six teams each. Each country plays ten matches, namely home and away against each of the five opponents.
When: September 5, 2024 – June 24, 2025 (subject to change)
Which countries qualify for the World Cup?
The three times two countries that finish in first and second place in their group qualify directly for the World Cup. This means that AFC already has six representatives at the FIFA final round in 2026.
Which countries will continue?
The countries that finish third or fourth in their group in this phase also stay in the race. They continue their way in the Asian play-offs.
Fourth Round | Asian Playoff
The final part of the 2026 World Cup Asian qualifiers consists of the AFC playoffs. The countries that finished in 3rd or 4th place in their group of six during the AFC Qualifiers are part of this. Since there were three groups in the qualification phase before, this is three times two makes six countries. They again end up in a group, this time consisting of three countries. In both newly formed groups, all countries play against each other once, on neutral ground. This means that two new matches are scheduled for each team.
When: September – October 2025 (subject to change)
Which countries qualify or continue to play for qualification?
In both play-off groups it is important to finish in the top two. Both numbers one are then already assured of a 2026 World Cup ticket, just like the six countries that have already qualified directly for the World Cup at an earlier stage. The total number of AFC participants in the World Cup in the United States, Canada and Mexico is therefore at least 6 + 2 = 8. But one more AFC country can be added. That is possibly one of the two numbers two of these play-off groups. They will play a play-off game against each other. The winner of it proceeds to the intercontinental play-offs. If the representative from Asia succeeds in this, the total number of qualified countries from continent AFC for the 2026 World Cup will be 8 + 1 = 9.
Extra Round | Intercontinental Playoff | Last possible World Cup ticket for AFC
The winner of the last Asian play-off match between the numbers two from the two play-off groups still has a chance to qualify for the World Cup. This country will represent the FIFA Zone AFC during the intercontinental World Cup 2026 qualification play-offs. Six countries are participating. They come from five of the six FIFA confederations: AFC (Asia), CAF (Africa), OFC (Oceania), CONMEBOL (South America) and CONCACAF (North America, Central America, and the Caribbean). The European confederation, UEFA, will have no representative at these intercontinental 2026 World Cup play-offs, while World Cup host CONCACAF will be allowed to provide two countries. The six countries compete for the last two (of 48) tickets that entitle them to participate in the World Cup in the three North American countries USA, Canada and Mexico. Including these cross-continental play-offs, the total number of World Cup participants from the FIFA Zone AFC could reach nine.
Format cross-intercontinental playoffs
The format of the six-nation inter-confederation play-offs is as follows. The four (of the six) qualified countries that are, at that moment, lowest in the FIFA Ranking are linked by a draw. The two winners then play against the two countries that (of those six) are highest in the FIFA Ranking. The two winners of those last two games will eventually get the last World Cup tickets.
When: November 2025 (subject to change).
Combination with qualification for Asian Cup 2027
In addition to the 2026 World Cup, participation in the 2027 AFC Asian Cup is also at stake for the AFC countries during the qualifying series from October 2023 to October 2025. For the ten ‘worst’ losers from the Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 1, there are five new, mutual AFC Asian Cup play-off matches on the agenda. The five winners of these qualify for the final round of the AFC Asian Cup qualifying phase. The final round consists of a total of 24 countries. This number of 24 is built up as follows. Firstly, there are the five winners of the mentioned play-offs among the ‘worst’ losers from Round 1. Secondly, there is the ‘best’ loser from that Round 1, who is already allowed to go through directly. Thirdly, these are the eighteen countries that finished third and fourth in the Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2. These 24 countries are divided into six groups of four. Only the six numbers one of these groups qualify for the final round of the 2027 AFC Asian Cup.
Countries qualifying for the 2026 World Cup from AFC, CAF, OFC, CONMEBOL, CONCACAF and UEFA
From the FIFA AFC Zone, a minimum of eight, a maximum of nine countries will qualify for the World Cup. The total number of countries at the final round in 2026 is 48. This number is made up as follows.
|FIFA ZONE||QUALIFY FOR WORLD CUP FOOTBALL 2026 | AVAILABLE SLOTS FIFA CONTINENTS|
|AFC||Minimum 8, maximum 9 countries (possible +1 via intercontinental play-offs)|
|CONCACAF||Minimum 6, maximum 8 countries (possible +2 via intercontinental play-offs) |
Host countries USA, Canada and Mexico are already automatically qualified
|CONMEBOL||Minimum 6, maximum 7 countries (possible +1 via intercontinental play-offs)|
|OFC||Minimum 1, maximum 2 countries (possible +1 via intercontinental play-offs)|
|CAF||Minimum 9, maximum 10 countries (possible +1 via intercontinental play-offs)|
These are the 46 AFC countries participating in the qualification for the 2026 World Cup
These countries come from the FIFA Zone of the Asian Football Confederation. They can all dream of a ticket for the final round of the 2026 World Cup. And with that, even if it is mainly in theory for many countries, even of winning the world title football.
- Brunei Darussalam
- China PR
- Chinese Taipei
- Hong Kong
- IR Iran
- Korea DPR
- Korean Republic
- Kyrgyz Republic
- Saudi Arabia
- Sri Lanka
- United Arab Emirates
Note: The Northern Mariana Islands are also part of the AFC Zone, but only participate in qualifying for the Asian Cup, not in qualifying for the FIFA World Cup.
See also: the positions of the AFC country teams in the FIFA Ranking.
When is the draw for qualification for the 2026 World Cup in the AFC zone?
Which countries play against each other during the first qualifying matches on the football continent of Asia? That partly depends on their position in the FIFA Ranking. The same goes for the second qualifying round. The draw determines who will play against whom and when. The date of the draw of the Preliminaries in the AFC Zone is still unknown.
See also: Preliminary Draw World Cup Football.
Format World Cup qualification AFC formally known since 2022
The format of the 2026 World Cup qualification for AFC has been formally approved in 2022. The format of the qualifying schedule in this FIFA Zone has been endorsed by the Executive Committee of the Asian Football Confederation and FIFA. However, there is the following caveat: the format is based on the participation of all 47 countries from this zone. If there is a definitively smaller number of countries, FIFA and the Asian Football Association may revise the format. In any case, the AFC qualifying schedule remains based on a total of 48 World Cup participants for the 2026 final tournament.
The information on this page is based on the official information from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), current and subject to possible changes.