FIFA confirm ‘revised’ major changes that will impact Leeds United, Man Utd and rivals

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FIFA have confirmed a number of changes to the World Cup and Club World Cup, and some of those changes could impact Leeds United.

Leeds United and their rivals now know how the 2026 FIFA World Cup will be formatted.

There has been controversy aplenty surrounding the next World Cup, though a very different kind of controversy to what surrounded the most recent edition in Qatar. The next World Cup will be hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico, and the three countries should put on a spectacular and accessable tournament.

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But the controversy has been created by FIFA’s decision to expand the World Cup from 32 teams to 48. Not only that, but FIFA wanted to shrink groups down to three teams, making a whopping 16 groups. But that decision has now been reversed, and the four-group system will remain. That means there will be 12 groups, which is an increase of four groups from the usual model.

There is also an extra knock-out round, with eight of the best third-placed teams also progressing, as well as the top two in each group, much like we now see in the European Championships, albeit on an larger scale. Overall, there will be 104 games at the next World Cup, which is an increase of 24 games.

FIFA have said in a statement: “The revised format mitigates the risk of collusion and ensures that all teams play a minimum of three matches, while providing balanced rest time between competing teams.”

As far as Leeds are concerned, there is not too much to worry about, particularly given the World Cup is returning to its rightful place - the summer. But the one nugget of information that will impact them down the road relates to the date clubs will have to release players for the World Cup.

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With the 2025-2030 international calender being approved, we now know clubs will need to release players for international duty ahead of the World Cup on May 25, 2026, following the last official club match on 24 May. Though, exceptions may be applied for by clubs to FIFA should finals of club competitions take place between May 25 and May 30 of that year.

FIFA have also confirmed that the FIFA Club World Cup has been remodelled to a 32-team competition. The new competition will take place every four years from June 2025, and it will feature clubs who win their conferation’s top tournament “the four-year period of the seasons ending in 2021 and 2024,” subject to qualification spots available. For European clubs, that means, in part, winning the Champions League.

Champions League winners from 2021 to 2025 will qualify, and the other seven European teams will be determined by “club ranking based on the same four-year period.” FIFA are also hoping to keep a yearly competition “between the winner of the Uefa Champions League and the winner of intercontinental play-offs between the other federations.”

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