According to the announcement, the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualification tournament will comprise four rounds, in which 22 teams, ranked 26 to 47, will be drawn to play in a home-and-away format in the Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 1, where the 11 winners will progress to Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2.
In Round 2, 36 teams, ranked from 1 to 25, as well as the 11 winners from the first round, will be divided into nine groups to compete in a round-robin, home-and-away format, after which the top two teams from each group – 18 in total – will advance to the AFC Asian Qualifiers for the World Cup as well as the 2027 Asian Cup.
During the Asian Qualifiers, the 18 teams will be divided into three groups to compete in a round-robin, home-and-away format, with the top two teams from each group qualifying directly to the 2026 World Cup.
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.