World Cup 2026 will have 40 more matches than 2022 edition as tournament expands AGAIN

Lionel Messi kisses the World Cup trophy after Argentina's win over France in Qatar.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

World Cup 2026 is set to have 40 more matches than the 2022 edition, with FIFA approving a further expansion to the tournament in North America.

Hosted by USA, Canada and Mexico, FIFA has already confirmed an enlarged tournament of 48 teams will compete at World Cup 2026, an increase from the 32 most recently in Qatar at the end of last year. 

Those 48 teams were due to be split into 16 groups of three teams, but FIFA has reneged on that idea and will instead have 12 groups each featuring four sides, according to reports. 

Ahead of the annual congress meeting for football's governing body due to be held in Rwanda's capital, Kigali, on Thursday, FIFA's ruling council is meeting today about the proposed new format of the 2026 tournament. Confirmation of the revised format is expected after the conclusion of the meeting.

Originally planning for 80 games across the tournament, the latest decision means there will be a total of 104 games at World Cup 2026 in North America - 40 more than the 64 played at World Cup 2022. 

It is unclear what this change means for the allocation of games between the three host nations, though.

The United States were due to stage 60 of the 80 games in the original format, with Canada and Mexico each getting 10. However, with more matches to fit in over the same time period, the split could become more even.

Indeed, FIFA is set to maintain the 39-day tournament structure, regardless of the increased amount of games. Teams reaching the final, therefore, will now have to play eight matches at the tournament, rather than the seven played by Argentina and France at World Cup 2022, and with shorter recovery periods, too. 

In November 2022, when FIFA still planned on going ahead with three-team groups, football's governing body reportedly considered introducing penalty shootouts to group games that end in a draw at World Cup 2026. 

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Ryan Dabbs
Staff writer

Ryan is a staff writer for FourFourTwo, joining the team full-time in October 2022. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before eventually earning himself a position with FourFourTwo permanently. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer while a Trainee News Writer at Future.