The 2026 FIFA World Cup with 12 groups of four teams
The FIFA Council met ahead of the 73rd FIFA Congress in Kigali, Rwanda, and adopted several key decisions, including on the future of the men’s and women’s competitions, for which the respective international match calendars have unanimously approved following an extensive consultation process.
The 2025-2030 men’s football international match schedule will be structured as follows:
– March: a nine-day window, with two matches
– June: a nine-day window, with two matches (including preparatory friendlies for the final competitions, if applicable)
– Late September / early October: one 16-day window, with four matches (from 2026; two nine-day windows and two matches retained in September and October 2025)
– November: a nine-day window, with two matches According to this new schedule, the 2026 FIFA World Cup final will be played on Sunday July 19, 2026 and the mandatory release period for players will begin on May 25, the day after the last official match date for clubs (waivers may be granted until 30 May 2026 for confederation club competition finals, subject to FIFA’s approval). The total cumulative number of rest, release and competition days amounts to 56 days, a figure identical to that of the 2010, 2014 and 2018 editions of the FIFA World Cup. The international match schedule for men’s football 2025-2030 will be published in the coming days.
International match schedule for women’s football 2024-2025
Like the current schedule, the 2024-2025 Women’s International Match Schedule will feature six international windows per year. Some of these windows will have several different types to allow confederations to organize their specific qualifications, on the one hand, and member associations to play friendly matches, on the other. The dates for the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament have been added to the calendar (July 25-August 10, 2024), along with the first-ever Concacaf Women’s Gold Cup (February 20-March 10, 2024).
The Council also unanimously approved the creation of a Players’ Health Working Group to ensure the proper implementation of principles for the protection of the well-being of footballers, such as mandatory rest. “FIFA has taken a truly global approach to discussions on international match schedules, taking into account the views of all key stakeholders,” said FIFA President Gianni Infantino. “Our fundamental objective is to achieve clarity on this subject and to offer high-stakes matches while protecting the health of players, as well as recognizing that many regions need more matches. of competition.”
2026 FIFA World Cup format
Based on careful consideration of sporting integrity, player health, team travel, commercial and sporting attractiveness as well as the team and spectator experience, the Board unanimously approved the proposed change to the format of the 2026 World Cup to transform the 16 groups of three teams into 12 groups of four teams. The first two of each group and the eight best third will qualify for the round of 32. The new format notably mitigates the risk of collusion and guarantees a minimum of three matches for each team, with a balanced rest period between the competing teams.
FIFA Club World Cup 2025 – Key principles for the selection of participating teams
Following the approval of the allocation of places for the 32-team FIFA Club World Cup, which will take place every four years from June 2025, the Council unanimously approved the key principles of the selection of the participating teams, the objective being to offer a line-up of the best possible quality, based on sporting criteria. As the period to be taken into consideration is the four years between the seasons ending in 2021 and 2024, the key selection principles are as follows:
– For confederations with more than four places: winners of the last four editions of the main club competition and additional teams selected according to their place in the confederation’s club rankings during the same four-year period.
– For confederations with four places: winners of the last four editions of the main club competition.
– For confederations with a place: highest ranked club among the winners of the main club competition during the four-year period. – For the host country: the club that will take the place allocated to the host country will be determined later. Other criteria apply: – If a club wins at least two editions of the main club competition of its confederation during the period 2021-2024, a club ranking established on the basis of sporting criteria will be used to determine the other participating club(s).
– A limit of two clubs per country will apply, except where more than two clubs from the same country win the main club competition of the confederation concerned over the four-year period in question.
– Further discussions with confederations and stakeholders will define the mechanisms for calculating club rankings, which will be based on sporting criteria.
Annual FIFA Club Competition
As the current version of the Club World Cup will be discontinued after the 2023 edition and confederations have expressed a desire to see the winners of their respective main club competitions compete each year in order to boost competitiveness, the Council unanimously approved the strategic concept of an annual FIFA club competition starting in 2024. This competition will bring together the winners of the main club competition from each confederation and will oppose in the final, at a neutral site, the winner of the UEFA Champions League to the winner of a play-off tournament contested by teams from other confederations. Further information regarding the organization period and the format will be communicated later.
Approval of the Candidature Regulations for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2027
In accordance with the decision taken at its meeting on February 14, 2023, the Council unanimously approved the Bidding Regulations for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2027, which will frame the most comprehensive bidding process in history. of the competition. It is expected that the FIFA Congress will designate the host country(ies) next year.
The Council has also decided to set up a working group involving all confederations to carry out a comprehensive review of the FIFA Statutes with a view to presenting proposed amendments to the FIFA Congress next year. In particular, this review will examine the possibility of extending FIFA’s mandate to include the category of eFootball in its general objectives.
System reform transfers
The Council unanimously approved amendments to the FIFA Regulations for the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTJ) in relation to transfer windows and the need to improve the protection of unemployed players under the third package of reforms of the transfer system.
The Council also agreed to entrust the FIFA administration with the mandate to study new regulatory possibilities for the protection of the health of players, within the framework of the RSTJ, in particular in the following areas: adoption, abortion, menstruation, multiple births, breastfeeding and child care.
The regulations for the operational management of the FIFA Talent Development Program – in which the governing body will invest USD 200 million between 2023 and 2026 – were also unanimously approved. An update was made on the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023, while the Board approved the publication of the summary report on the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. Finally, the Board confirmed that the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup UAE 2023 will take place from November 16 to 26, and the allocation of places for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Seychelles 2025 has been approved ( AFC: 3; CAF: 2; Concacaf: 2; CONMEBOL: 3, OFC: 1; UEFA: 4; host country: 1).
FIFA: Gianni Infantino re-elected President acclamation
Gianni Infantino will serve a second full term as FIFA President after being re-elected for four years at the 73rd FIFA Congress in Kigali (Rwanda). He was the only candidate running.
He spoke immediately after his re-election as head of world football’s governing body for the 2023-2027 term: “Being FIFA President is an incredible honour, a huge privilege and a huge responsibility. I am sincerely touched and moved by your support and I promise to continue to serve FIFA, to serve football all over the world and to serve the 211 member associations of FIFA.”
For the first time in history, an elective FIFA Congress was held in Africa. The session was opened by Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda. In his speech, the Head of State welcomed to his country the delegates of the 208 member associations present, and congratulated President Infantino on his upcoming re-election.
The latter then underlined the role of FIFA in the organization of competitions and the development of football. He also revealed that the 32 teams taking part in the FIFA Women’s World Cup later this year, in Australia and New Zealand, will receive a prize pool of more than USD 150 million, more than three times the amount allocated to the last edition in 2019 and ten times that of 2015.