The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has recently unveiled a revised format and the draw pots for the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. This development comes after FIFA’s decision to increase Africa’s direct tickets from five to nine, allowing for more African representation in the prestigious tournament. The new format, approved by the CAF Executive Committee in May, will see the 54 Member Associations divided into nine groups, each comprising six teams.
Under this new format, matches will be played on a round-robin basis within the groups. After Match Day 10, the top team from each group will secure automatic qualification to the 2026 World Cup, which is set to be hosted by the United States, Mexico, and Canada. This expansion in Africa’s quota presents a tremendous opportunity for more nations to showcase their talent on the global stage.
Additionally, the best four second-placed teams from across all nine groups will enter a Continental play-off. This play-off will determine one winner who will proceed to a second and final play-off. In the final play-off, this African representative will compete against six teams from different confederations to secure one of the remaining two spots for the World Cup. This format ensures that Africa has a fair chance to secure additional World Cup berths and increase its representation to a total of 48 teams.
The qualifiers are scheduled to kick off in November of this year, with Match Day One and Two taking place between 13-21 November. Subsequently, the third and fourth match days are set for June 2024. The final match day will be held during the week of 6-14 October. The Continental play-off, which will feature the top four second-placed teams, is planned for 10-18 November 2025. The venue for this crucial play-off will be communicated at a later date. Finally, the FIFA Play-off tournament is scheduled for March 2026, culminating in the selection of the final teams for the World Cup.
The Official Draw for the FIFA World Cup 2026 African Qualifiers is eagerly anticipated and is slated for July 12, 2023. The draw will feature six pots based on the latest FIFA ranking, providing a fair allocation of teams. Teams ranked within the top eight by CAF will be placed in pot one. Notably, Nigeria, Morocco, Senegal, Algeria, Tunisia, Cameroon, Mali, and Egypt find themselves in pot one, reflecting their strong performances in recent years. However, one-time African Cup of Nations (AFCON) winners Zambia did not secure a spot in pot one and are placed in pot two. The Chipolopolo, aiming for their maiden World Cup appearance, will face stiff competition from teams such as Ghana, Burkina Faso, South Africa, Cape Verde, and others in their pot.
In the previous edition of the World Cup held in Qatar, Africa was represented by Morocco, Senegal, Cameroon, Ghana, and Tunisia. While Morocco achieved a historic semi-final berth, the other teams faced challenges and couldn’t progress beyond their respective stages. The upcoming 2026 qualifiers provide an opportunity for African nations to regroup, strategize, and showcase their footballing prowess on the global stage.
As the qualifiers draw closer, the excitement among football enthusiasts in Africa continues to grow. The new format presents a fair and competitive environment for teams to prove their mettle and secure their places in the 2026 FIFA World Cup. Fans eagerly await the matches that will undoubtedly bring captivating moments and inspire a new generation of African football stars.
Below are the pots for the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers:
Pot 1: Nigeria, Morocco, Senegal, Algeria, Tunisia, Cameroon, Mali, Egypt
Pot 2: Ghana, Burkina Faso, South Africa, Cape Verde, DR Congo, Guinea, Zambia, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea
Pot 3: Angola, Benin, Kenya, Mauritania, Congo, Uganda, Madagascar, Guinea Bissau, Namibia
Pot 4: Mozambique, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Togo, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Central African Republic, Malawi, Libya
Pot 5: Niger, Comoros, Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Eswatini, Botswana, Liberia
Pot 6: Lesotho, South Sudan, Mauritius, Chad, Sao Tome, Djibouti, Seychelles, Eritrea, Somalia
The upcoming qualifiers will provide an exciting journey for African nations as they vie for coveted spots in the 2026 World Cup.