The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Executive Committee has announced Asia's pathway to the 2026 FIFA World Cup and the 2027 AFC Asian Cup.According to the announcement, the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualification tournament will comprise four rounds, in which 22 teams, ranked 26 to 47, will be drawn to play in a home-and-away format in the Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 1, where the 11 winners will progress to the Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2.
In Round 2, 36 teams, ranked from 1 to 25 as well as the 11 winners from the first round, will be divided into nine groups to compete in a round-robin, home-and-away format, after which the top two teams from each group, a total of 18, will advance to the AFC Asian Qualifiers for the World Cup as well as the 2027 Asian Cup, Xinhua reports.
During the Asian Qualifiers, the 18 teams will be divided into three groups to compete in a round-robin, home-and-away format, with the top two teams from each group six in total qualifying directly to the 2026 World Cup.
The final round will feature all six teams that finished third and fourth from all groups of the Asian Qualifiers. They will be divide into two groups to compete in a single round-robin format, with the two first-placed teams advancing to the 2026 World Cup, while two second-placed teams competing for a berth in the Intercontinental Playoff.
Meanwhile, the 10 losing teams from the Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 1 will be drawn to compete in a home-and-away format Asian Cup Qualifiers Playoff, with five winners advancing to the Asian Cup Qualifiers Final Round.
The Final Round will consist of a total of 24 teams, including one best-ranked losing team from the Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 1, 18 third-and-fourth-placed teams from each group of the Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2 and the five winners from the Asian Cup Qualifiers Playoff.
The 24 teams will be divided into six groups, in which the first-placed team of each group will qualify for the 2027 Asian Cup.