CAF has announced a new format for the qualifiers of the 2026 FIFA World Cup, following the decision by FIFA to increase Africa’s quota from five to nine direct tickets.
The new format, which was approved by the Executive Committee of CAF during its meeting in Algiers on Thursday, will see the 54 Member Associations divided into nine groups of six teams each.
Games will be played on a round-robin basis, and the top team from each group after Match Day 10, will earn an automatic qualification to the 2026 World Cup to be hosted by the United States, Mexico and Canada.
Consequently, the best four second-placed teams from across all nine groups will enter into a Continental play-off to determine one winner who will then proceed to a second and final play-off which will include six teams from the other different confederations.
The top two of these six will qualify for the World Cup to make up the 48 teams.
The qualifiers are scheduled to start in November this year, with Match Day One and Two scheduled for between 13-21 November, while the third and fourth match days are scheduled for June 2024.
The last match day will be in the week of October 6-14 while the Continental play-off will be staged between 10-18 November 2025 at a venue to be communicated later.
The FIFA Play-off tournament is scheduled for March 2026.
The Executive Committee also announced that the Official Draw of the FIFA World Cup 2026 African Qualifiers will be held on July 12, 2023, in Cotonou, Benin, the night before the 45th CAF Ordinary General Assembly.
At the Qatar World Cup last year, Africa was represented by Morocco, Senegal, Cameroon, Ghana and Tunisia.
Morocco finished fourth and made history by becoming the first-ever African country to reach the semi-finals.