BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — The Asian Football Confederation has confirmed a new qualifying format to cater for its expanded number of direct entries allotted for a 48-team World Cup in 2026. The governing body for soccer in Asia says a four-round qualifying system has been designed in preparation for the eight direct spots and single intercontinental playoff slot allocated to the AFC following the expansion of the World Cup. Apart from host Qatar, Asia had four direct entries for the 32-team 2022 World Cup which kicks off in November. Iran, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Japan earned those automatic places. Australia beat United Arab Emirates in an Asian playoff and then beat Peru in an intercontinental playoff to secure another spot in Qatar.
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