Updated at 5:33 p.m. ET
Only the top 10 candidates will be allowed to participate in the first GOP presidential debate later this year, Fox News said Wednesday.
With as many as 16 candidates expected to be in the race by the time the debate is held in Cleveland in August, a sizable chunk of the GOP field will be left on the outside looking in. That sets up an important early test for the candidates: Can they scratch and claw their way into the top 10?
“To qualify for the event, candidates must place in the top 10 of an average of the five most recent national polls by August 4th at 5 p.m. ET, according to the Washington Post, which first reported the requirement. “Such polling must be conducted by major, nationally recognized organizations that use standard methodological techniques and recognized by Fox News.”
The Post updated its original piece to note that more than 10 candidates could get into the debate if they are tied in the average of the national polls.
The current top 10 in the five most recent national polls, according to the Post:
Left out, according to the Post, based on the current polling: Rick Santorum, John Kasich, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, Carly Fiorina, and George Pataki.
National Republicans have been forced to consider ways to limit how many contenders will appear in debates given the unusually large size of the 2016 field.
Fox, according to the Post, will, offer extra coverage and time on the air to candidates who do not meet the minimum requirements to appear at the debate.
The first debate is being hosted by Fox News and Facebook. Fox’s Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly, and Chris Wallace will moderate the debate.
In January the Republican National Committee announced nine presidential debates with the possibility of an additional three in the 2016 cycle. RNC chairman Reince Priebus previously vowed to cut down the number of debates compared to the 2012 cycle, when there were 27.