2026 FIFA World Cup Format in 2018 Part 1

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Editorial (December 15, 2017) – As most soccer fans know by now, the 2026 FIFA World Cup will be like nothing we’ve seen before! The hosts of the tournament has yet to be determined but leading the way is believed to be the joint bid put in from the United States, Mexico, and Canada with the majority of the games to be played in America.

2026 FIFA World Cup Format in 2018 Part 1

There’s the potential for multiple nations hosting the tournament for the first time since 2002 when Japan and South Korea were hosts, but it’s also been confirmed that the 2026 FIFA World Cup will feature 48(!) teams instead of 32 that most of us are used to following. The increase in the number of teams and the potential of multiple hosts will mean changes towards each confederation’s qualifying process. Now we don’t know anything about these changes as of now but one thing is certain, they should be exciting for fans of the beautiful game.

Here’s what we know so far about the 2026 tournament:

  • Two official bids to host the tournament were submitted to FIFA: The joint bid of Canada, Mexico, USA and the other being Morocco.
  • The tournament will feature 48 teams as opposed to 32.
  • There will be 16 groups of 3 teams.
  • Each confederation will have additional slots in qualifying (Which I will get into shortly).
  • Six teams will feature in a playoff tournament to determine the last two World Cup spots.

I always seem to find myself making World Cup predications every time the groups are decided (France 2018 by the way). But now with this new format confirmed for 2026, I thought I would challenge myself by trying to fill in the blanks such as “what do the pots look like?” and “who would win with 16 more nations involved?”

That’s when I decided I would write this piece, to give you readers my insight and a chance to get involved! With help from the FIFA Rankings and all you crazy soccer fans willing to participate, together we’ll decide who wins the 2018 FIFA World Cup using the 2026 format!

Couple of things:

1. Since none of us know everything about the format yet, I will be improvising some aspects such as the nations involved in the tournament (Pots, playoff tournament), the knockout stage, etc.

2. Since Morocco is already in the tournament for 2018, we’re going to go with Canada, Mexico, and the United States as the hosts so this does mean Russia 2018 will not be featured in this hypothetical.

So let’s get started shall we?

Here’s the slot allocation for each confederation:

AFC: 8
CAF: 9
CONCACAF (Including Hosts): 6
OFC: 1
UEFA: 16
Playoff: 2

I decided to use the FIFA rankings (November edition) in order to determine which teams get in from each confederation as well as the playoff teams. Here are the results:

AFC: Iran (32), Australia (39), Japan (55), Korea Republic (59), China (60), Saudi Arabia (63), United Arab Emirates (73), Syria (77)

CAF: Senegal (23), Tunisia (27), Egypt (31), Congo DR (36), Morocco (40), Burkina Faso (44), Cameroon (45), Nigeria (50), Ghana (51)

CONCACAF: Mexico (16), USA (24), Canada (94), Costa Rica (26), Jamaica (54), Panama (56)

CONMEBOL: Brazil (2), Argentina (4), Chile (10), Peru (11), Colombia (13), Uruguay (21)

OFC: New Zealand (122)

UEFA: Germany (1), Portugal (3), Belgium (5), Spain (6), Poland (7), Switzerland (8), France (9), Denmark (12), Italy (14), England (15), Croatia (17), Sweden (18), Wales (19), Netherlands (20), Iceland (22), Northern Ireland (25)

Now for the playoff tournament. This is where you guys come into play. As mentioned, the playoff will feature six teams with two of them advancing to the World Cup. The rules state that the six teams chosen will be one from each confederation (excluding UEFA) with an additional team selected from the hosts confederation. In this case, CONCACAF will have two nations present in the playoff.

Since there’s no process as to how these teams will be selected, I decided to use the FIFA rankings (again, the November edition). The highest ranked nations from each region outside of the teams already in the tournament of course.

This means that the following nations will play in the playoff: Paraguay (30), Haiti (57), Ivory Coast (61), Honduras (70), Iraq (79), and the Solomon Islands (148).

Two of the six teams will be seeded based on the rankings and will play for world cup berths against the winners of the first two knockout games involving the four unseeded teams. The seeded teams in this situation would be Paraguay and Haiti whereas the rest of the nations will square off. While I assume the matchups will be based on a draw, my method used to determine the matchups is highest seed vs. lowest seed.

This is where you readers and twitter users come into play. You’re going to help me decide who wins the following matches by casting your vote on polls posted at @LastWordSC.

The playoff matches are:

Ivory Coast (61) vs. Solomon Islands (148)

Honduras (70) vs. Iraq (79)


The matches are FIFA World Cup Qualification knockout games and will be played in the hosts countries (Canada, Mexico, USA)

So go cast your vote and help me out!

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