Structure of the World Cup

Since 1934, qualifying tournaments to decide the participating teams in the World Cup have been held in the six FIFA continental zones: Africa, Asia, North and Central America and Caribbean, South America, Oceania, Europe. For each tournament, FIFA decides how many countries from each region go to the World Cup, based on the general strength of the confederations’ teams collectively. This is considered the qualifying round, followed by the group round and the knockout round in the actual World Cup tournament.

1930 - 13 teams

1934-1978 - 16 teams

1982-1994 - 24 teams

1998-present - 32 teams

Since the 32-team format began, there have been 8 groups of 4 teams which play a round-robin in this group stage. The top two teams of each group go on to a round of 16 where immediate elimination after loss begins. The losers of the semifinals, however, get to play an additional game to decide who’s 3rd place.


confederation zones