The Confederation of African Football will draw lots for the qualifying groups for the 2026 World Cup this Thursday 13 July in Abidjan, on the sidelines of its General Assembly. This first step will officially kick off the qualifiers in the African zone and allow the 54 competing nations to find out their fate.
All eyes are on Abidjan, the economic capital of Côte d'Ivoire, where the Confederation of African Football is holding its General Assembly.Initially scheduled to take place in Benin, the meeting will now be held in the host country of the 2023 CAF Africa Cup of Nations.And while the main item on the agenda is the renewal of one third of the body's executive board, the general public will be eagerly awaiting the ceremony scheduled for 3pm GMT. This is when the draw for the qualifying groups for the 2026 World Cup will take place.
54 nations are on the starting line and will know their opponents in this forthcoming campaign to try and qualify for the 2026 World Cup in the United States, the first with 48 teams, which will see Africa's number of representatives in the final phase rise from 5 to 9. In view of the new format of the World Cup, CAF has also changed the qualifying procedures, this time with a full draw, i.e. no preliminary rounds.
9 groups, 9 direct qualifiers and 4 teams in the play-offsIn preparation for the draw, the pan-African body has unveiled 6 groups of 9 teams each. Hat 1 comprises the highest-ranked teams in the FIFA rankings, while Hat 6 contains the lowest-ranked teams. One team from each hat will be drawn at random and placed in a group, so teams from the same hat cannot be placed in the same qualifying group. Each group will thus comprise 6 teams.Morocco, Senegal, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Cameroon, Mali and Côte d'Ivoire will be seeded and will therefore avoid each other on the road to qualification for the 2026 World Cup.
For the qualification procedures, CAF has opted for the simplest format in practice.
Once the groups have been drawn up, the winners of each group will qualify directly for the 2026 World Cup, a total of 9 teams. The four teams that finish as the best 2nd in their groups will then compete in a mini-tournament in the form of a play-off. The winner of this tournament will then qualify for the intercontinental play-offs, where they will play off for their place in the World Cup against teams from other confederations.
Pots for the 2026 World Cup qualifying group draw
Group 1: Morocco, Senegal, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Cameroon, Mali, Côte d'Ivoire
Group 2: Burkina Faso, Ghana, South Africa, Cape Verde, DR Congo, Guinea, Zambia, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea
Group 3: Uganda, Benin, Mauritania, Kenya, Congo, Madagascar, Guinea-Bissau, Namibia and Angola
Group 4: Mozambique, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Togo, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Central African Republic, Malawi and Libya
Group 5: Niger, Comoros, Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Eswatini, Botswana and Liberia
Hat 6: Lesotho, South Sudan, Mauritius, Chad, São Tomé and Príncipe, Djibouti, Seychelles, Eritrea and Somalia.