The World Cup group stage format for 2026 was changed to 12 groups of four teams from 16 groups of three teams by FIFA’s Council on Tuesday
increasing the total to 104 matches from 64 in the 2022 tournament in Qatar.
To win a World Cup, a nation will have to play eight games, up from the seven in place since 1974.
The top two teams in each group and the top eight third-place teams will advance to a new round of 32 that starts the knockout phase.
Advancement for third-place teams was eliminated for 1998, when the tournament expanded from 24 teams to 32.
The change means there will be 104 matches, double the 52 at the 1994 World Cup in the U.S.,
up from the 64 at each tournament from 1998 through 2022 and an increase from the 80 under the original 2026 format
That means more content for television broadcasters and more tickets to sell, increasing revenue for FIFA.
The original format for the 2026 tournament in the U.S., Mexico and Canada was adopted by the Council in January 2017 when the World Cup was expanded from 32 nations to 48 starting in 2026.
That format would have meant two teams playing on the final day of the group with one team off
which could lead to corruption. The current schedule of having all teams in a group kick off simultaneously on the final
day was adopted after the Disgrace of Gijón at the 1982 World Cup in Spain when West Germany and Austria knew that a one- or two-goal win by the Germans would
advance both nations at the expense of Algeria, which played a day earlier. Horst Hrubesch scored in the 10th minute and neither team threatened after that as West Germany won 1-0