CAF announces qualifying format for 2026 FIFA World Cup

Story by ZBC Reporter

THE Confederation of African Football (CAF) has come up with a new format for the 2026 World Cup qualifiers which will do away with three rounds for a format that will take almost two years to complete.

CAF announced this Friday that the continent will have nine places at the expanded 48-team tournament in North America hence it has come up with a format of nine groups, where the winner of each group will qualify for the World Cup.

Africa previously had up to three stages of qualification — preliminary rounds involving the lower-ranked countries, then a group stage followed by two-legged playoffs to decide the five representatives of the continent.

According to CAF, the draw for the nine groups will be made in Cotonou, Benin, on the 12th of July.

It gave no further explanation but is expecting all 54 African countries to enter which means each group will be made up of six nations and will likely seed teams for the draw according to the latest FIFA rankings.

There are, however, doubts over Zimbabwe’s participation with the country suspended from international football for third-party interference in the running of the game.

The qualifiers will kick off in November this year before continuing in June next year and there will be three separate windows in March, September, and October 2025 to conclude the groups.

The World Cup finals in Canada, Mexico and the US will be played in mid-2026.

World football’s governing body FIFA has already announced that the final will be played on the 19th of July.

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