CONMEBOL appears to be planning to reform the format of world cup 2026 qualifying round. Such decision is necessary considering the fact that South America will have more berths to fill in the upcoming expanded world cup final round.


The South American football governing body has been pondering for such change which would enable the traditionally less strong sides like Venezuela and Bolivia to compete better for the remaining spots. There  will be 6.5 spots for CONMEBOL, instead of 4.5 berths as it is today. Interestingly, the format they consider to propose is quite similar to the one in World Cup 1994 qualifiers.


In this newish format, all ten members of the confederation shall be divided in two groups of five, much like the one in Copa America 2021. Each team is still bound to play home-and-away games against one another in the group. The top two sides in the final standings will automatically seal the tickets to FIFA World Cup United 2026, whereas the ones sitting on the third and fourth will go to the second stage of the qualifying round. The third from each group faces the fourth place. Both winners shall earn the next two spots for Latin America. The loser from each fixture would go to the next path, playoff round against the teams from the other continents, aside from UEFA, for the remaining two spots.


This reforned format, which has yet been approved by FIFA until world cup 2022 is completed, is also likely to separate two regional giants and rivals, Brazil and Argentina, being seeded in the same group. Furthermore, the teams from the lower ranks does have bigger chance to qualify.


The USA 1994 did become the last time for the weaker team such as Bolivia to be able to play in the final round. It Unfortunately, that was the only time for CONMEBOL to use such format before overhauling it to the current league-like model using round robin format for all teams from 1998 to 2022 world cup qualifiers.


Throughout the world cup history, CONMEBOL have at least made two alterations regarding the format. Prior to 1994 qualifiers, they divided all ten teams in the group of three consisting three or four teams with each group leader qualified automatically. It went on for a while from 1958 to 1990 edition. Meanwhile, in 1950 and 1954 qualifiers, it was simpler with only round robin competition for all teams or several one-off games with home-and-away format the teams depending on the berths provided by FIFA. For the three world cup editions before the second World War,  CONMEBOL practically could not stage any standardised qualifying round as there were always some teams which withdrew for various reasons.