FIFA approves 2026 World Cup format with record 104 matches

The 2026 World Cup, co-hosted by Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, will have 104 matches instead of the traditional 64 due to the expansion of participation from 32 to 48 teams, global football governing body FIFA said on Tuesday.

The tournament's format will play out in 12 groups of four, with the top two and eight best third-placed teams advancing to the knockout round of 32. 

Scheduled to take place on July 19, the date of the 2026 edition's final was also approved by the FIFA Council as a part of the new international match calendars.

According to the men's international match calendar 2025-2030, a 16-day, four-match window will be introduced in late September/early October from 2026, as well as a nine-day, two-match window each in March, June and November. 

The women's international match calendar 2024-2025 will contain six international windows per year. The women's football event in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games will take place from July 25 to August 10. 

The FIFA Council met in advance of the 73rd FIFA Congress in Kigali, Rwanda. They adopted several key decisions including match calendars, and approved the establishment of a dedicated task force on player welfare and other decisions as well. 

(With input from Xinhua)

(Cover: Team Argentina celebrate winning the Qatar World Cup in Doha, Qatar, December 18, 2022. /CFP)

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