8.33 tickets ‘surging’… How will the next World Cup Asian qualifiers be?

 As the number of participating countries in the 2026 FIFA North and Central America World Cup finals expands to 48, changes will also occur in the Asian regional qualifiers.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) last summer announced the new FIFA World Cup Asian Qualifying Procedures and the 2027 AFC Asian Cup Qualifying Procedures. The Asian region qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup will be held over four rounds instead of the previous three rounds. 

In the 2026 World Cup in North and Central America, co-hosted by the United States, Canada, and Mexico, as the number of countries qualifying for the finals increases from 32 to 48, the number of places to participate in the finals assigned to countries under the AFC will also increase significantly from 4.5 to 8.33.

The AFC plans to select eight teams that will advance directly to the finals and one team that will go to the Intercontinental Playoffs (PO) through four stages of preliminary rounds from October next year.

First, in the first preliminary round, teams ranked 26th to 47th in Asia in the FIFA rankings will participate. The 22 participating teams face each other in a home-and-away format, and the 11 winning teams advance to the second qualifying round. In the second round of qualifiers, a total of 36 teams, 11 teams that have passed the first round of qualifiers, will compete with the teams ranked 1st to 25th in Asia.

Strong teams such as Korea (28th), which is currently ranked third in Asia, Iran (23rd), Japan (24th), Australia (39th), etc. 

The participating teams are divided into 9 groups of 4 teams to play in a home-and-away format, and the top 2 teams in each group, 18 teams, will advance to the next round and qualify for the 2027 AFC Asian Cup finals.

The 3rd (final) qualifying round, in which these 18 teams will advance, will be divided into 3 groups of 6 teams each. A home-and-away group stage will also be held, and a total of six teams, first to second in each group, will advance to the World Cup finals.

As the final qualifiers were divided into three groups, Korea has a chance to avoid both Japan and Iran and compete in the final qualifiers.

Considering the method of assigning pots based on the FIFA rankings, if the 1st to 3rd places in the Asian rankings remain as they are, the three countries can belong to different groups with pot 1.

The remaining rounds are the Asian region playoffs. The 6 teams placed 3rd and 4th in the 3rd qualifying round will play in two groups of 3 teams each.

Here, the two teams that finish first in each group will take the two remaining tickets to the World Cup finals. The two teams placed second in the group will compete in a playoff to determine who will advance to the Intercontinental Playoff.

The two second-place teams in each group will compete in a playoff to determine which team advances to the intercontinental playoff. 안전놀이터

The countries in the intercontinental playoff will fight for the last two tickets to the finals with five teams from other continents, including Africa, Oceania, South America (above 1 team), and North, Central America and the Caribbean (2 teams).

As a result, Asian traditional powerhouses are expected to be able to advance to the next World Cup without any major surprises.

Based on the Asian qualifiers for this Qatar World Cup, the top eight teams were Iran, Saudi Arabia, Korea, Japan, Australia, UAE, Iraq, and Oman, and the two fifth-place teams in each group were China and Syria. .

Vietnam and Lebanon also advanced to the final qualifying round and placed 6th in each group.

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