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CONMEBOL to overhaul WCQ for 2026 edition

LEAKED: CONMEBOL plotting to overhaul World Cup Qualifiers for 2026 edition

June 21, 2022 By Oscar Rojas
The never-ending qualifiers in South America will no longer be played due to the short amount of time between both World Cup editions.

The days when CONMEBOL teams were forced to play one of the toughest World Cup Qualifiers to reach the final stage of the competition are reportedly over, as South America's football authorities have decided to make the road a bit shorter, given that there will be two more spots to be allocated among the ten associations that play in the Southern region of the American continent.

Previously, all teams were forced to play 18 matches to determine those who would play in the FIFA World Cup. With this new format, each national team would be playing ten matches in the first round to see if they can earn a direct ticket to the World Cup set to be played in Canada, the United States, and Mexico. 

The new format, which is yet to be approved by FIFA, would see all of CONMEBOL's teams being drawn in groups of five teams. The major change in this format would see teams from one group facing the teams from the other, keeping every team in competition while also eliminating bye matchdays for all countries involved. The first round would come to an end once ten games have been played, eliminating those national teams that end the group stage in fifth place of their group. Meanwhile, the two top teams from each group would earn a spot in the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

The remaining 2.5 spots to play in the World Cup would be decided by having the third and fourth-placed teams from the group stage playing against each other in two-legged ties. The winner of each meeting would make it to the World Cup, while the losers would go on to face each other for the chance to play in the Intercontinental playoffs. 

If FIFA approves this format, it will be interesting to see how each group is drawn, but the possibilites of a major upset in the qualifiers would certainly increase, as the lower-ranked teams such as Bolivia and Venezuela could have a fighting chance of making it to a World Cup since they would not be forced to play with one of the two most powerful teams in the region(Brazil and Argentina).

The decision on this matter will only come after the end of this year's World Cup, but such an overhaul would be more adaptable to strange circumstances, such as the ones the world faced due to the COVID-19 epidemic.

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