AFC kicks off 2026 World Cup qualification with elimination round to finalise first group stage

October 11 – Asia kicks off its ‘Road to 2026’ World Cup qualifiers tomorrow with the AFC’s Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 1, which sees 20 nations in action.

The 10 pairings will play home and away matches in the October international window with the 10 winners progressing to join the AFC’s other 26 nations in the first group stage (nine groups of four) that kicks off in the November international window.

The AFC has eight direct slots into World Cup 2026 with a further play-off place available.

The first round sees four teams looking to advance to the group stages for the first time: Brunei Darussalam, Macau, Pakistan and Timor-Leste.

This is 11th  World Cup qualifying process with direct slots available for Asia’s teams since the AFC was establishws in 1954. It is the third time that the first two rounds will also serve as part of the Qualifiers for the AFC Asian Cup (for the 2027 edition). Four teams have been involved in all previous 10 qualifying rounds: Bangladesh, Hong Kong, China, Singapore, and Yemen.

Two of the ties will see the first leg played at neutral venues: Afghanistan vs Mongolia (in Tajikistan) and Yemen vs Sri Lanka (in Saudi Arabia).

Round 1 Fixtures

Afghanistan v Mongolia
Maldives v Bangladesh
Singapore v Guam
Yemen v Sri Lanka
Myanmar v Macau
Cambodia v Pakistan
Chinese Taipei v Timor Leste
Indonesia v Brunei Darussalam
Hong Kong, China v Bhutan
Nepal v Laos

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