Wednesday, July 24

Nepal must face playoffs to compete in World Cup and Asian Cup qualifiers

By a Staff Reporter

Nepal has to compete from the first stage of Asian Cup qualifiers for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) released the new qualifiers format for the World Cup 2026 and Asian Cup 2027 on Monday. As per the new format, Nepal have to start its campaign through the playoffs.

The World Cup 2026 will jointly be held in America, Canada and Mexico in which 48 teams will vie to be crowned champions of the prestigious title. 8 teams from Asia will qualify for the World Cup. One team will have to face intercontinental play offs. 9 teams from Asia will play in the World Cup if a team qualifies through play-offs. Earlier, the four spots were given to Asia.

According to the new format, the bottom teams should pass at least four rounds of qualifiers in order to qualify for the World Cup 2026. In the first round of qualifiers, the teams ranking from 26th to 47th in Asia will compete. Nepal is currently ranked 36th in Asia and will compete through the playoffs. Earlier, Nepal played in the second round of qualifiers for Qatar World Cup 2022 as Nepal did not have to face the playoffs due to its higher ranking.

Nepal is currently ranked 176th as per FIFA ranking. In the last three months only, Nepal has dropped down 9 positions in FIFA ranking from 167th. Earlier, Coach Abdullah Almutairi said that Nepal will prepare aiming to ignore the initial round of qualifiers, but the ranking of the team has been decreasing recently.

The first round of playoffs will be based on home and away format. 11 winning teams from the first round will qualify to the second round. A total of 36 teams who are ranked between 1st to 25th in Asia and the 11 qualified teams will compete in the second round. 36 teams will be divided into 9 groups.

The top two teams from each 9 groups will compete in the Asian Cup 2027 and also compete in the third round qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup. The third round qualifiers consist of 3 groups of 6 teams each and the top two teams from each group will directly advance to the World Cup.

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