World Cup 2026 qualifying campaign: CAF announces plan

The format for Africa’s World Cup 2026 qualifying campaign has been revealed, with the 54 member associations set to be split into nine groups.

At a meeting in Algiers on Thursday, CAF elected to adopt a new format for its World Cup 2026 qualifying campaign following FIFA’s decision to increase the number of participating teams in the quadrennial tournament.

Unlike the 2022 qualifying campaign, where three stages — preliminary, group and two-legged play-offs — were used to determine the qualifiers, the 2026 campaign has a single group-stage format, with winners of the respective groups securing automatic qualification; while the four best runners-up from the groups will earn CAF play-offs spots.

The four runners-up will play in an African play-off tournament — and the winner progressing to the FIFA play-off tournament.

Thirty-two teams featured in the last World Cup held in Qatar, but the next edition will see 48 countries compete for the World Cup title in the northern American Nations of United States, Canada and Mexico.

Africa, which was represented by five countries in Qatar, is guaranteed nine spots in 2026 — and could ultimately have ten nations at the tournament if its play-off winner earn qualification at FIFA’s play-off tournament.

CAF’s World Cup qualifying campaign will kick off on 13 November 2023

The draw for CAF’s World Cup qualifying campaign will hold on 12 July with teams expected to be seeded based on FIFA rankings, while matches will begin on 13 November.

Nigeria, who missed out on the 2022 World Cup following a shock loss to rivals Ghana in a two-legged play-offs, will be looking to top their group in order to seal automatic qualification.

Jose Peseiro’s side, whose last game came in March, will return to action next month — in an AFCON qualifying game away to Sierra Leone.

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