Eight AFC qualifying spots confirmed for 2026 World Cup

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Executive Committee has approved a renewed qualification format for Asia’s Road to the FIFA World Cup 2026 and for the AFC Asian Cup 2027.

The announcement made by the AFC comes as a direct result of the eight direct spots and single Intercontinental Playoff slot allocated to the AFC by FIFA following the expansion of the FIFA World Cup 2026 to 48 teams.

The new qualification format has been established after several consultation and dialogue sessions with the AFC Member Associations (MAs), briefings with the AFC Competitions Committee, as well as the Confederation’s key stakeholders.

It was decided that the FIFA World Cup 2026 qualification tournament will comprise four rounds:

  • Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 1: 22 teams, ranked 26 to 47, will be drawn to face off in a home and away format, where the 11 winners will progress to the Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2.
  • Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2: 36 teams – teams ranked from 1 to 25 as well as the 11 winners from the first round – will be divided into nine groups of four teams each, who will each compete in a round robin, home and away format, where the top two teams from each group – 18 in total – will advance to the AFC Asian Qualifiers.
  • AFC Asian Qualifiers: Subsequently, the 18 teams, who also qualify automatically for the AFC Asian Cup™ 2027, will be divided into three groups of six teams each, competing in a round robin, home and away format, with the top two teams from each group – six in total – qualifying directly to the FIFA World Cup 2026.
  • Asian Playoff: The final round will consist of the third and fourth placed teams from all groups of the AFC Asian Qualifiers – six teams in total. The six teams will be drawn into two groups of three teams each, competing in a single round robin format.
  • The two first placed teams from the Asian Playoff groups will advance to the FIFA World Cup 2026. The second-placed teams from both groups will compete in a playoff match to determine the side that will represent the AFC in the Intercontinental Playoff.

The AFC Asian Cup 2027 Qualifiers will continue from the Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 1 and Round 2, in parallel with the FIFA World Cup 2026 qualification competition:

  • AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers Playoff: The 10 losing teams from the Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 1 will be drawn to compete in a home and away format, where the five winners will advance to the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers Final Round.
  • AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers Final Round: 24 teams in total – 1 best ranked losing team from the Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 1, 18 third and fourth placed teams from each group of the Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2 and the five winners from the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers Playoff – will be divided into six groups of four teams each, where only the first placed team of each group will qualify to the AFC Asian Cup 2027.

The format above is based on the entry of all 47 Member Associations and is subject to change depending on the final number of entries.

Additionally, the AFC Executive Committee also approved the proposal of the competitions’ (national teams, futsal and beach soccer) calendar for 2023/2024 which is tabled below and at the same time, provided the Administration with the mandate to alter the Match Days (MD) where necessary.

Newcastle Jets’ new owners add key pieces for upcoming season

Newcastle Jets’ new owners, Maverick Sports Partners, have hired Ken Schembri as General Manager of Football and Ben Hawes as General Manager of Commercial, Digital and Marketing for this upcoming season.

The appointment of Schembri and Hawes reaffirms Maverick Sports Partners’ intent to invest in high-quality resources, which should excite Newcastle fans for this upcoming season.

Schembri had previously worked with the reigning champions, the Central Coast Mariners, being an essential part of establishing the Central Coast Mariners Football Academy and their Centre of Excellence when he joined in 2014.

Schembri will manage the A-League Men’s roster, oversee player performance and development, and handle recruitment for all football departments.

The Mariner’s Academy has produced many young and exciting Australian talent including Garang Kuol and Max Balard who have all gone to join clubs in Europe after their time in Gosford. Schembri has most recently played a key role in Central Coast’s recent success as Head of Football.

Maverick Sports Partners Director Maurice Bisetto commented about the new additions.

“We are excited to have both Ken and Ben join the Newcastle Jets team. They will be integral to the strategy and direction of the Club’s New Era, providing expertise and support, on and off the pitch,” said Bisetto in a club statement.

These two joined the Jets after the club were bought by the Australian company only last month.

Hawes has prior experience in Sponsorship, Marketing and Content roles at the National Rugby League, Sportsbet, BlueBet and Sydney FC.

Hawes will focus on expanding and diversifying the clubs commercial revenue streams which includes growing the sponsorship portfolio. He will also deal with commercialising the club’s digital channels as well as implementing new marketing and fan engagement strategies.

Due to these recent moves, Newcastle have the potential to produce exciting Australian talent and grow its brand across the league which will help the club continue to improve both on and off the pitch and ultimately strengthen their stability for future seasons.

Football Coaches Australia and Martyn Buckie team up for ‘Benefits of Micro Coaching Sessions’

Football Coaches Australia (FCA) and Martyn Buckie will host an online session on Monday, July 29 at 7:30pm AEST.

As part of ‘Benefits of Micro Coaching Sessions’, Buckie will present insights on the benefits of micro coaching sessions for children and youth coaches.

Coaches will get a full understanding on what ‘Micro Sessions’ are and how to implement them into training sessions. He will explain the benefits they provide to both players and coaches and how to design effective ‘Micro Session’ practices.

Buckie is currently the ‘Grassroots Coach Education and Development Manager’ with the Scottish Football Association. He is a UEFA A Licence and Scotttish Advanced Children’s Licence holder. In addition, he is also the advanced Children’s Licence Tutor and Course Manager.

He has a wealth of practical coaching experience as Academy Coach at both Stenhousemuir FC and Falkirk FC.

Attendance to this event will qualify for one-hour CPD with Football Australia.

Sign up via Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/martyn-buckie-benefits-of-micro-coaching-sessions-tickets-940768212047?aff=oddtdtcreator

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