CAF Unveils 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualification Structure

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  • For the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualification, countries from Africa will be grouped into nine clusters, each containing six nations.
  • This edition of the World Cup will be unique, marking the debut of a 48-team lineup.
  • The tournament will be co-hosted by Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has announced a new format for the 2026 World Cup qualifiers, which involves dividing its 54 member countries into nine groups of six.

The top team from each group will secure a spot at the inaugural World Cup with 48 participating teams. This tournament will be jointly held by the United States, Canada, and Mexico. By contrast, the 2022 edition in Qatar featured 32 teams.

The four most impressive second-placed teams will advance to a playoff round. The victorious sides from this stage will then participate in an inter-confederation showdown, battling for two coveted World Cup slots.

Following a CAF executive committee gathering in Algeria, the organization declared that the qualification draw is set to take place in Cotonou, Benin on 12 July.

The initial pair of 10 scheduled matchdays is penciled in for 13-21 November this year. Subsequent matchdays are spread across 3-11 June, 17-25 March, 1-9 September, and 6-14 October of 2025.

The period between 10-18 November in 2025 has been earmarked for the pivotal four-team playoffs. Winners of these playoffs will compete alongside two nations from North and Central America, and one each from Asia, Oceania, and South America.

Morocco carved a niche for themselves in the annals of football history during the Qatar World Cup, emerging as the first semi-finalists from Africa. Their journey saw them succumb to France 2-0 in the semi-final and face a narrow 2-1 defeat to Croatia in the third-place tie.

In related news, CAF has declared that the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations draw, set to take place in Ivory Coast, is slated for 12 October.

Already, four qualification rounds have occurred, with two more anticipated on 12-20 June and 4-12 September.

Besides Ivory Coast, who qualify automatically as the hosts, nations including Algeria, Burkina Faso, Morocco, Senegal, South Africa, and Tunisia have confirmed their spots, leaving 17 still open.

Turning attention to club football, CAF has revealed an uptick in prize money for the Champions League and the Confederation Cup, Africa’s answer to the UEFA Europa League.

The Champions League victors will receive a whopping $4 million, a significant leap from last season’s $2.5 million. Runners-up will be awarded $2 million, and the semi-finalists will earn $1.2 million.

The Confederation Cup champions will pocket $2 million, marking an increment of $750,000. Runners-up will take home $1 million, while the semi-finalists will get $750,000.

Egypt’s Al Ahly, a team boasting a record 10 victories, has secured a spot in the two-leg Champions League final. They await the winner between South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns and Morocco’s Wydad Casablanca.

Additionally, Young Africans from Tanzania and USM Alger have earned their spots in the Confederation Cup finale.

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