AFC announce new qualification format for 48 team 2026 World Cup

AFC announce new qualification format for 48 team 2026 World Cup.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Executive Committee has approved the qualification format for Asia’s Road to the FIFA World Cup 2026 as well as the AFC Asian Cup 2027 in preparation of the eight direct spots and single Intercontinental Playoff slot allocated to the AFC by FIFA following the expansion of the FIFA World Cup 2026 to 48 teams according to a press release from the AFC.

The press release states that the new qualification format has been established after several consultation and dialogue sessions with the AFC Member Associations (MAs), briefings with the AFC Competitions Committee, as well as the Confederation’s key stakeholders.

It was decided that the FIFA World Cup 2026 qualification tournament will comprise four rounds:

       Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 1: 22 teams, ranked 26 to 47, will be drawn to face off in a home and away format, where the 11 winners will progress to the Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2.
 
·       Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2: 36 teams – teams ranked from 1 to 25 as well as the 11 winners from the first round – will be divided into nine groups of four teams each, who will each compete in a round robin, home and away format, where the top two teams from each group – 18 in total – will advance to the AFC Asian Qualifiers.
 
·       AFC Asian Qualifiers: Subsequently, the 18 teams, who also qualify automatically for the AFC Asian Cup 2027, will be divided into three groups of six teams each, competing in a round robin, home and away format, with the top two teams from each group – six in total – qualifying directly to the FIFA World Cup 2026.
 
·       Asian Playoff: The final round will consist of the third and fourth placed teams from all groups of the AFC Asian Qualifiers – six teams in total. The six teams will be drawn into two groups of three teams each, competing in a single round robin format.
 
·       The two first placed teams from the Asian Playoff groups will advance to the FIFA World Cup 2026. The second-placed teams from both groups will compete in a playoff match to determine the side that will represent the AFC in the Intercontinental Playoff.
 
The AFC Asian Cup 2027 Qualifiers will continue from the Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 1 and Round 2, in parallel with the FIFA World Cup 2026 qualification competition:
 
·       AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers Playoff: The 10 losing teams from the Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 1 will be drawn to compete in a home and away format, where the five winners will advance to the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers Final Round. 
 
·       AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers Final Round: 24 teams in total – 1 best ranked losing team from the Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 1, 18 third and fourth placed teams from each group of the Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2 and the five winners from the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers Playoff – will be divided into six groups of four teams each, where only the first placed team of each group will qualify to the AFC Asian Cup 2027.

The format above is based on the entry of all 47 Member Associations and is subject to change depending on the final number of entries.

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