The number of slots in the AFC increased to 8.5 compared to the 2026 World Cup

Previously there were 4.5 places for the Continent in the mega event.

There will be major changes in the 2026 World Cup after it was confirmed that it will rise to a 48-team tournament. As a result, the AFC will raise the number of teams to 8.5.

This will be double what was available until the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 edition (4.5). FIFA decided to increase the number of teams to make the World Cup bigger and more inclusive. Of course, this could be a major turning point for India’s hopes of qualifying for the Grand Slam.

Not only the Blue Tigers, but many other Asian national teams would be encouraged by this change. Almost twice as many AFC teams will participate in the biggest stage of the 2026 edition. They will also get the chance to increase the reputation of the continent.

But what exactly will the new World Cup qualification for AFC members look like? The board of directors disclosed this, too. The 2026 World Cup qualifiers will consist of four different rounds. Here’s how it goes.

Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 1

The first preliminary qualifying round will include teams seeded from 26 to 47 (in the AFC rankings). These 22 teams will face each other on home and away, with the 11 winners advancing to the joint preliminary round 2. India is currently ranked in the top 25, so they don’t have to play in this.

Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2

This will be a larger qualifying phase with 36 teams. This will consist of 11 winners from the previous qualifying round and the top 25 teams in the Asian rankings. These will be divided into nine groups of four teams each. The two teams will face each other in a home-and-away format, back and forth. From each group, two teams – 18 in total – will qualify for the Asian Qualifiers.

AFC Asian Qualifiers

The 18 eligible teams from the previous round will play in this. There will be three groups of six teams – competing again in a home and away format, back and forth. After that, the two best teams from the three groups will qualify directly for the 2026 World Cup.

Asian playoff

For the third and fourth-placed teams from that group, the hopes are endless. The remaining six teams will be drawn into two groups of three each, competing in a single robin fashion. The top two teams from both groups will qualify directly for the FIFA World Cup. The second-placed teams from the two groups will compete in a play-off to determine which side represents the AFC in the Intercontinental Qualifiers. This play-off match will be played against a country from another continent and decide whether the AFC will finish ninthThe tenth team in the World Cup.


All in all, this news must be excited for Indian football. This will be their biggest chance to qualify for the World Cup in the modern era. But more focus should be placed on developing the national team. This includes more international friendlies against challenging opponents, a larger national camp period and first-class facilities.

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