August 19, 2022

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— The 2026 FIFA World Cup will be an expansive affair, with the United States,...

The 2026 FIFA World Cup will be an expansive affair, with the United States, Canada, and Mexico sharing the hosting duties for the prestigious tournament.

The US will stage 60 matches including the quarter-finals, semi-finals, and final, while Canada and Mexico will each host 10 games.

This 48-team tournament will be the first to be hosted by three nations and it will be a good time to bookmark soccer news sites such as Soccer Index to help you stay up to date.

Mexico (1970 & 1986) and the US (1994) have previously staged the World Cup, but this will be Canada’s first time hosting or co-hosting the men’s tournament.

World Cup 2026 Qualification

The qualification process for 2026 has yet to be announced, with FIFA still to decide whether all three hosts will be given automatic berths in the World Cup finals.

The expansion to 48 teams has been a key part of FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s policy to create a tournament that is contested by an increased number of smaller nations.

This factors into FIFA’s aims of growing soccer globally by provide more opportunities for nationals to progress to the final tournament. The new allocation of spaces is as follows:

  • AFC (Asia) – 8
  • CAF (Africa) – 9
  • CONCACAF (North and Central America) – 6 (three may to go to the hosts)
  • CONMEBOL (South America) – 6
  • OFC (Oceania) – 1
  • UEFA (Europe) – 16

 

There will also be two additional spots available via a new World Cup play-off mini-tournament.

A nation from every confederation except UEFA will play off in a knockout tournament that doubles up as a test event for a host nation.

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The five teams will be joined by a CONCACAF nation. Two teams will be seeded and will each meet the winners of a match between two unseeded teams to determine the final places.

World Cup 2026 Schedule

The tournament will take place during June and July 2026, with the 48 teams initially divided into 16 groups of three. The top two teams in each group will progress to the round of 32.

The format has been widely criticized, with the opening phase likely to produce some extremely unbalanced and uncompetitive groups.

The set-up also hands a significant advantage to the teams that feature in the opening group game, as they will know exactly what they need from their next match to make progress.

This potentially creates a situation where teams will adopt an extremely negative approach to their second game, thus detracting from the entertainment at the tournament.

However, supporters of World Cup expansion have pointed out that adding extra teams will help the development of soccer in smaller nations.

The two teams who progress to the final will still play six matches to get there, thus meaning that the traditional bigger nations are not likely to be disadvantaged.

As is the case now, 32 teams are still guaranteed to have at least three matches in the competition, and one of those will be a knockout game.

World Cup 2026 Cities & Venues

A delegation from FIFA made the first round of visits to nine potential US host cities during September 2021.

During the trip, the group completed a tour of Boston, Nashville, Atlanta, Orlando, Washington DC, Baltimore, New York/New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Miami.

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The remaining US bidding venues, as well as those in Canada and Mexico, will be visited by the end of November.

FIFA Vice-President and Concacaf President Victor Montagliani led the delegation who held a series of meetings with various stakeholders.

These include city and stadium authorities, football clubs and other sports organizations, all of whom are eager to be part of the 2026 World Cup.

The visits comprised inspections of essential infrastructure such as stadiums, training facilities and potential FIFA Fan Festival venues.

The selection process is expected to be finalized during the first half of 2022.

World Cup 2026 Preview

Predicting the winner of the 2026 World Cup this far in advance is a tricky task, particularly with the final 48 teams yet to be decided.

However, only eight national teams have won the World Cup in the 21 previous editions of the tournament, with Brazil holding the record with five victories.

Germany (4), Italy (4), Argentina (2), France (2), Uruguay (2), England (1) and Spain (1) complete the World Cup roll of honor.

Reigning champions France will fancy their chances of retaining the trophy, although they were hugely disappointing at the recent European Championships.

Italy defeated England on penalties in the final of that tournament and both will be expected to put up a strong showing at the World Cup.

The Italians recently set a new world record for the longest international unbeaten run after a draw with Switzerland took them to 36 matches without defeat.

However, some of their key defenders will have retired by the time the tournament comes around and will be difficult to replace.

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The Three Lions will head into the World Cup as one of the favorites, but they have a nasty habit of letting their fans down in the biggest games.

A more likely winner could be Brazil, who have previously claimed the trophy when the tournament was staged in Mexico (1970) and the US (1994).

The Samba Kings continue to churn out exciting young talents and could be extremely tough to beat at the 2026 World Cup.

Spain, Germany, and Argentina are also likely to be in the mix, while it would be foolish to write off the likes of Belgium and Portugal.

Another team worth noting are Netherlands. They missed out on qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, but have shown signs of improvement in recent times.

Their current team boasts some extremely talented youngsters and there are plenty more coming through the system.

Netherlands’ U21 team reached the semi-finals of the 2021 European Championships and many of those players should progress to the senior side.

The Dutch national team finished second and third in the two World Cups prior to 2018 and should give a good account of themselves at the 2026 edition.

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