South American World Cup qualifying to start in September
SAO PAULO (AP) — South American soccer body CONMEBOL announced Wednesday that the region's qualifying for the 2026 World Cup will kick off in September.
Defending champion Argentina will start at home against Ecuador. Brazil will also play host in its first qualifying match against Bolivia. The dates and venues for those matches are yet to be decided.
The United States, Mexico and Canada are hosting the 48-team tournament.
Brazil will host Argentina in the sixth round of the qualifying, which will be played in November. It will be the first match between the two since the cancellation of a World Cup qualifying clash in September 2021 due to health protocols after a few minutes of play.
Argentina will host Brazil in March 2025 in the 14th round.
For the expanded tournament, six South American teams will have direct spots and the seventh-place team will qualify through a playoff. For last year's World Cup in Qatar, four teams had berths and a fifth qualified through a playoff.
CONMEBOL also said there will be two international windows for South American teams to face European rivals. It said four matches are two be scheduled for next year — two in March and another two in June before Copa America and the European Championship.
Argentina has extended the contract of World Cup winning coach Lionel Scaloni until the end of the 2026 tournament. Brazil is yet to appoint a successor to Tite.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Mauricio Savarese, The Associated Press