BRISBANE, Australia — The Asian Football Confederation has confirmed a new qualifying format to factor in its expanded number of direct entries for a 48-team World Cup in 2026.
The governing body for soccer in Asia issued a statement Monday saying a four-round qualifying system has been designed in preparation for the eight direct spots and single intercontinental playoff slot allocated to the AFC following the expansion of the World Cup.
Under the new system, the teams ranked 26th to 47th in Asia will participate in the first round of qualifying, with 11 teams advancing to join the top 25 in a second-round home-and-away series comprising nine groups.
The top two teams in each of those groups will progress to the third round, which will be divided into three groups of six competing in round-robin format.
The first and second teams in each of those groups…