The world cup has been on my mind recently.
And this time around, it’s a different ballgame.
The format and the number of matches have changed a lot.
Here’s what we know so far: The games will be played in the summer, and we won’t see a World Cup in 2019.
A group stage will take place between June and August.
The World Cup will be held in 2026.
It will feature a four-team knockout stage, with the top two from each of the top four qualifying for the final.
As with every FIFA tournament, the winner of the knockout stage is guaranteed to host the final, which takes place in 2019, but that doesn’t mean that the winner will necessarily host the tournament.
In a bid to create parity in the tournament, each country will play one-off games against the other four.
Each country will have four players on the World Cup squad.
All of the players will be eligible to play for the host nation, and that could be the U.S. or England.
There will be a maximum of four players per country, and players from one of those countries will be allowed to represent their country in the group stage.
If the winner qualifies, they’ll automatically advance to the knockout stages.
But there will be no World Cup finals, so there’s no need to get excited.
Instead, FIFA will decide how to determine who is playing.
A “Qualifying Round” is played on the last Sunday of June and the next two weeks, where the top eight finishers from the group stages will meet to determine the top-four.
After the first qualifying round, the top three from the knockout rounds will meet for a play-off to determine which team gets to host.
That’s where the knockout round gets interesting.
Two teams are eliminated from the qualifying round.
The winner of that match gets to take on the host, while the loser plays in a play off to determine where they finish.
So there are four games that can occur in a round, and all of them can be played.
What if there are no knockout rounds?
There’s a couple of scenarios where the World Cups is played as a single-elimination format.
The most common scenario is that all of the teams that make it through the knockout phases would be guaranteed to face off in a final.
That would happen if there is no knockout round.
However, if the host country qualifies for the finals, then they will be required to play against the bottom two from the knockouts.
That means there’s a chance the host will be forced to play the lower seed from the qualification round, as opposed to the winner, who will be playing against the team from the qualifier.
For more on the 2019 World Cup, pick up the new issue of ESPN The Magazine, on newsstands Friday, Dec. 5, 2019.