FIFA World Cup 2026: Africa Announces New Qualifying Format with Nine Groups and Nine Guaranteed Spots!
Each group will consist of six nations from 54 African countries.
Africa has opted for a streamlined World Cup qualification process for the upcoming 2026 finals, eliminating three rounds to adopt a format that spans nearly two years.
In an announcement on Friday, the Confederation of African Football revealed that the continent will be granted nine spots in the expanded 48-team tournament held in North America. The qualifying structure will consist of nine groups, and only the group winners will secure qualification for the World Cup.
Previously, Africa’s World Cup qualification process comprised multiple stages: preliminary rounds for lower-ranked countries, followed by a group stage, and two-legged playoffs to determine the continent’s five representatives in the finals.
In contrast, for the 2026 tournament, the entire African qualifying process will span a duration of 23 months, allowing ample time for the nine finalists to emerge. This is a significant shift from the condensed six-month period allocated for the previous tournament in Qatar.
Cotonou to Host Draw for African World Cup Qualifying Groups
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has announced that the draw for the nine groups will take place in Cotonou, Benin, on July 12.
While no specific details were provided, CAF anticipates the participation of all 54 African countries in the qualifying process. As a result, each group is expected to consist of six nations, and teams will likely be seeded for the draw based on the latest FIFA rankings.
Qualification Timeline: Dates and Phases
The qualification journey will commence in November, followed by matches in June of the subsequent year. To finalize the groups, three distinct windows in March, September, and October 2025 have been scheduled.
In November 2025, the four highest-ranked runners-up from the groups will participate in a CAF playoff tournament. The victors of this playoff will then proceed to the FIFA playoff tournament in March 2026, vying for a potential 10th African slot in the World Cup.
Final World Cup Spots
To determine the last two berths for the World Cup, a playoff tournament will be held involving six teams. Each confederation, except Europe, will be represented by one team, and an additional team from the host countries’ confederation (CONCACAF) will also participate.
2026 World Cup: North American Hosts
The highly anticipated World Cup finals are scheduled to take place in Canada, Mexico, and the United States in the middle of 2026.
Final Showdown: July 19 Championship
FIFA, the governing body of world football, has already disclosed that the final match of the tournament will be held on July 19.