CONMEBOL Football Championship Qualification Process: Road to the 2026 Football Championships

South America boasts one of the fiercest competitions in international football, with its qualifying process for the FIFA World Cup being a battleground where passion, skill, and determination collide.

Governed by the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL), this qualification journey is not for the faint of heart, as only four direct spots to the World Cup are up for grabs, with an additional inter-confederation playoff opportunity.

Despite the fact that the 2026 FIFA World Cup will be slightly different in this edition due to the number of teams that are allowed to participate, the qualification process has remained the same for this region per the request of CONMEBOL.

The CONMEBOL World Cup qualification process is a round-robin tournament where each of the ten member nations plays home and away matches against every other team. This gruelling marathon of 18 matches per team ensures a comprehensive test of consistency, endurance, and talent.

A footballing powerhouse with a rich history, Argentina fields a squad brimming with talent, including global icons like Lionel Messi and Enzo Fernandez. Although they were winners of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, they are not automatically guaranteed their spot in the next tournament.

Five-time World Cup champions Brazil are synonymous with flair and skill. Led by numerous stars, they are always a formidable force and are perennial qualifiers for the major tournament. However, recent editions have been poor by their standards, and a good qualification process may help them to win their first tournament in what would be 14 years by the time the competition is played in North America.

The Chilean team, known for their tenacity and tactical prowess, have shown in recent years that they are capable of challenging even the strongest opponents. They can make things difficult during qualification and can often spring a few surprises. They have not reached the finals since 2014, though.

Colombia boasts a blend of experienced veterans and exciting young talent, making them a team to watch out for in every match. They missed out in 2022 and will be desperate to make their seventh appearance at the finals this time around.

With a passionate fanbase and a roster of talented players, Ecuador is a team that can cause upsets on their day. They can be a bit hit-and-miss at times, as they qualified for 2006, missed 2010, played at 2014, missed 2018, and appeared at the 2022 edition. They started this year’s qualification with a three-point deduction after being found guilty of falsifying documents about Byron Castillo’s birth in the previous qualification process.

Paraguay may not always be in the spotlight, but their gritty style of play and never-say-die attitude make them a tough opponent for any team. Their last appearance was in 2010, when they reached the furthest they had ever had in the competition (quarter-finals).

Peru has been enjoying a resurgence in recent years, making deep runs in international tournaments and showcasing their footballing prowess on the world stage. They have played in five Football Championships over the years, with their last appearance in 2018.

A nation with a rich footballing heritage, Uruguay combines skill, physicality, and tactical discipline to consistently challenge for top honours. Previous winners on two occasions (1930 and 1950), Uruguay have made every tournament since 2010, after missing out on 2006’s event.

While historically considered underdogs, Venezuela has been steadily improving and can no longer be underestimated by their opponents. Player talent has gotten a lot better in recent years, as they continue to push and challenge. However, they have never made an appearance at the tournament. Could the 2026 edition be the year they finally get to play on a global stage?

Playing at high altitude gives Bolivia a unique home advantage, and they often make it difficult for visiting teams to secure points. Bolivia have only played in three World Cups (1930, 1950, and 1994) and with their last appearance at USA ‘94, perhaps they can return to the place of their last appearance 32 years later? 

To secure direct qualification to the FIFA World Cup, teams aim to finish within the top six positions in the CONMEBOL standings at the end of the qualification process. These teams earn automatic berths to the tournament.

For the team that finishes in seventh place, there is still hope. They enter an inter-confederation playoff against a team from another continent, with the winner securing a spot in the World Cup.

CONMEBOL qualifying begins earlier than any other federation, with the process having started on 7 September 2023. It is scheduled to conclude in September 2025, making it a two-year process. It is one of the longest, with the AFC only taking slightly longer. On the flip side, it will finish before every other federation, bar the OFC.

As of February 2024 (and the next round of matches to be played in September), these are the current standings:


Automatic qualification to the 2026 World Cup
7Paraguay61235Play-off with another federation country

*Ecuador were docked three points because for falsifying birth documents of Byron Castillo’s birth.

From the raucous stadiums of Buenos Aires to the high-altitude battlegrounds of La Paz, the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers are a spectacle like no other. Every match is a test of skill, nerve, and resilience, with each team fighting tooth and nail for precious points.

As the qualification campaign unfolds, fans can expect twists, turns, and dramatic moments that will shape the destiny of nations. From the first whistle to the final matchday, the road to the FIFA World Cup is fraught with excitement, tension, and unparalleled footballing spectacle.

In the end, only the strongest, most consistent teams will earn the right to represent South America on the grandest stage of them all: the FIFA World Cup.

Keep yourself updated on the latest progress, as we provide you everything you need to know about what happens during the CONMEBOL qualification process!