The FIFA Council unanimously decided in favour of expanding the FIFA World Cup™ to a 48-team competition as of the 2026 edition: an exciting split in 16 groups of three teams, with an additional knockout round.
The decision to expand the format of the FIFA World Cup™ was taken based on a report that took into account such factors as sporting balance, competition quality, impact on football development, infrastructure, projections on financial position and the consequences for event delivery.
The number of participants is consistent with the evolution of football’s global showpiece – for which qualification will remain more selective than any of the continental tournaments. It will mean more participation, more opportunities for footballers around the whole world and more excitement on the pitch.
During its meeting on 9 May 2017, the FIFA Council agreed on the slot allocation for the FIFA World Cup™ as of the 2026 edition. The distribution accounts for 46 direct slots, as set out in the diagram above, and an intercontinental play-off tournament to determine the two remaining slots.
Play-off tournament for two remaining slots
Under the current FIFA World Cup slot allocation, four confederations – the AFC, Concacaf, CONMEBOL and the OFC – are entitled to a so-called ”half-slot”. This means that one team from each of these confederations takes part in an intercontinental play-off – played in a two-legged home-and-away format and the winners of which qualify for the World Cup. This will change as of the 2026 edition, for which one single play-off tournament involving six teams will decide the last two World Cup berths:
- One team per confederation (with the exception of UEFA) + one additional team from the confederation of the host country;
- Two teams to be seeded based on the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. The seeded teams will play for a World Cup berth against the winners of the first two knockout games involving the four unseeded teams.