How Many Teams Are In The FIFA World Cup?

fifa the group stage

Every four years, the FIFA World Cup plays host to nations from around the globe in the world’s biggest soccer tournament. Currently, 32 nations participate in this event, but over the years, there have been a varying number of teams. Read on to learn about the history and future of the number of teams at the World Cup.


History

Over the years, the World Cup has expanded a number of times. At the first tournament in 1930, which took place in Uruguay, 13 teams participated. The original 13 were Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, France, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Romania, the United States, Uruguay, and Yugoslavia. Clearly, the event was not as worldwide as it is today, as seven of the 13 teams came from South America. That began to change slowly with each expansion.

The next World Cup, in 1934, saw 16 teams participate in the event, which was held in Italy.  This number stayed the same for the next nine World Cups, until the next expansion in 1982. In the 1982 tournament in Spain, 24 teams qualified, making that the biggest tournament up to that date. The same number of teams made the 1986, 1990, and 1994 tournaments before the World Cup expanded to its current number, 32, for the 1998 edition in France. For the past six World Cups, 32 teams have participated, and 32 will again take the stage for the 2022 tournament in November in Qatar.

The event has come a long way from the 1930 event, where over half of the participating teams were from South America. In the 2022 tournament in Qatar, there will be 13 teams from Europe, five from Africa, five from Asia, four from South America, four from North/Central America, and one from Australia. Thus, the World Cup has become a truly global event.

Future

Starting with the 2026 tournament, which will be jointly hosted by the United States, Mexico, and Canada, 48 teams will qualify for the World Cup. Thus, in 94 years, the World Cup will have expanded from a mere 13 teams to a whopping 48. It is not yet known exactly how many teams will participate from each part of the world, as there will be several “intercontinental playoffs.” In other words, teams from different regions of the world will not quite qualify only from competing against their regional competitors, so they will need to qualify against a team from another part of the globe. Regardless of where exactly these teams come from, the one thing that is certain is that there will be a record number of nations at the 2026 World Cup.

FAQ

How many teams qualify for the FIFA World Cup?

While the number of teams that qualify for the World Cup has changed throughout the years, it currently sits at 32. There have been four expansions since the original 13-team field, and a fifth expansion is coming in 2026, when 48 teams will make it to the event.

How many teams from each continent are in the FIFA World Cup?

For the 2022 World Cup, there will be 13 teams in contention from Europe, five from Africa, five from Asia, four from North/Central America, four from South America, and one from Australia. For the 48-team tournament in 2026, it is unknown exactly how many teams from each continent will qualify.