2026 FIFA World Cup

The 2026 FIFA World Cup (Spanish: Copa Mundial de la FIFA de 2026; French: Coupe du monde de la FIFA de 2026) will be the 23rd FIFA World Cup, the quadrennial international men's soccer championship contested by the national teams of the member associations of FIFA. The tournament will be jointly hosted by 16 cities in three North American countries: Canada, Mexico, and the United States. 60 matches, including every match from the quarterfinals onward, will be hosted by the United States while neighboring Canada and Mexico will each host 10 matches. The tournament will be the first hosted by three nations.[1][2] This tournament will be the first to include 48 teams, expanded from 32.[3]

2026 FIFA World Cup
FIFA World Cup United 2026
Copa Mundial de la FIFA Unidos 2026
Coupe du monde de la FIFA Unis 2026
Tournament details
Host countriesCanada
Mexico
United States
Teams48 (from 6 confederations)
Venue(s)16 (in 16 host cities)
2022
2030

The United 2026 bid beat a rival bid by Morocco during a final vote at the 68th FIFA Congress in Moscow. It will be the first World Cup since 2002 that will be hosted by more than one nation, and the first by more than two. With its past hosting of the 1970 and 1986 tournaments, Mexico will become the first country to host or co-host the men's World Cups three times. The United States last hosted the World Cup in 1994, whereas it will be Canada's first time hosting or co-hosting the men's tournament.

FormatEdit

Michel Platini, who was President of UEFA at the time, had suggested in October 2013 an expansion of the tournament to 40 teams,[4][5] an idea that FIFA president Gianni Infantino also suggested in March 2016.[6] A desire to increase the number of participants in the tournament from the previous 32 team format was announced on October 4, 2016. Four expansion options were considered:[7][8][9][10]

  • Expand to 40 teams (8 groups of 5 teams)—88 matches
  • Expand to 40 teams (10 groups of 4 teams)—76 matches
  • Expand to 48 teams (opening 32-team playoff round)—80 matches
  • Expand to 48 teams (16 groups of 3 teams)—80 matches

On January 10, 2017, the FIFA Council chose the fourth option and voted unanimously to expand to a 48-team tournament.[3] The tournament will open with a group stage consisting of 16 groups of three teams, with the top two teams progressing from each group to a knockout tournament starting with a round of 32 teams.[11] The number of games played overall will increase from 64 to 80, but the number of games played by finalists remains at seven, the same as with 32 teams. Each team will play one fewer group match than under the previous format, compensating for the additional knockout round. The tournament will also be completed within 32 days, the same as previous 32-team tournaments.[12]

CriticismEdit

The use of a three-team group stage with two teams progressing has been criticized for increasing the risk of collusion between teams, as seen in previous World Cup group matches such as the 1982 "Disgrace of Gijón".[13] FIFA's chief technical officer Marco van Basten has suggested that draws may be prevented during the group stage by the use of penalty shootouts.[14] This would mitigate the increased risk of collusion but not by much and would introduce the possibility of a team deciding to eliminate a rival by deliberately losing a penalty shootout.[13] In response to fears of collusion, CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani commented in April 2022 that FIFA was still considering 12 groups of 4.[15]

Host selectionEdit

 
Map of the World with the six confederations

The FIFA Council went back and forth between 2013 and 2017 on limitations within hosting rotation based on the continental confederations. Originally, it was set that bids to be host would not be allowed from countries belonging to confederations that hosted the two preceding tournaments. It was temporarily changed to only prohibit countries belonging to the confederation that hosted the previous World Cup from bidding to host the following tournament,[16] before the rule was changed back to its prior state of two World Cups. However, the FIFA Council did make an exception to potentially grant eligibility to member associations of the confederation of the second-to-last host of the FIFA World Cup in the event that none of the received bids fulfill the strict technical and financial requirements.[17][18] In March 2017, FIFA president Gianni Infantino confirmed that "Europe (UEFA) and Asia (AFC) are excluded from the bidding following the selection of Russia and Qatar in 2018 and 2022 respectively."[19] Therefore, the 2026 World Cup could be hosted by one of the remaining four confederations: CONCACAF (North America; last hosted in 1994), CAF (Africa; last hosted in 2010), CONMEBOL (South America; last hosted in 2014), or OFC (Oceania, never hosted before), or potentially by UEFA in case no bid from those four met the requirements.

 
Map of World Cup hosts stayed after the announcement of the 2026 edition hosts

Co-hosting the FIFA World Cup—which had been banned by FIFA after the 2002 World Cup—was approved for the 2026 World Cup, though not limited to a specific number but instead evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Also for 2026, the FIFA general secretariat, after consultation with the Competitions Committee, had the power to exclude bidders who did not meet the minimum technical requirements to host the competition.[17]

Canada, Mexico and the United States had all publicly considered bidding for the tournament separately, but the United joint bid was announced on April 10, 2017.

 
Voting results:
Allowed to vote Banned from voting
  Voted for United bid
  Canada–Mexico–United States
  Voted for Moroccan bid
  Morocco
  Voted for neither
  Sanctioned by FIFA
  Abstained from voting
  Not a FIFA member

VotingEdit

The voting took place on June 13, 2018, during FIFA's annual congress in Moscow, and it was reopened to all eligible members.[20] The United bid won receiving 134 valid ballots, while the Morocco bid received 65 valid ballots. Canada became the fifth country to host both men's and women's World Cup—the latter in 2015—Mexico became the first country to host three men's World Cups—previously in 1970 and 1986—and the United States became the first country to host both men's and women's World Cup twice each—having hosted the 1994 men's and the 1999 and 2003 women's World Cups.

Nation Vote
Round 1
Canada, Mexico, United States 134
Morocco 65
None of the bids 1
Abstentions 3
Total votes 200

QualificationEdit

The 2026 World Cup's qualification process has yet to be decided. The FIFA Council is expected to decide which hosts, if any, will receive automatic qualifications for the tournament.[21][22][23]

The United Bid personnel anticipated that all three host countries would be awarded automatic berths.[24]

Slot allocationEdit

On March 30, 2017, the Bureau of the FIFA Council (composed of the FIFA president and the presidents of each of the six confederations) proposed a slot allocation for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. The recommendation was submitted for the ratification by the FIFA Council.[21][25]

On May 9, two days before the 67th FIFA Congress, the FIFA Council approved the slot allocation in a meeting in Manama, Bahrain. It includes an intercontinental playoff tournament involving six teams to decide the last two FIFA World Cup spots, making it a 13 spot in finals for a place in intercontinental play-offs.[22] But actually, the 2 high-ranked teams have each 12 spot and the other 4 teams only have each 14 spot.

Confederation Eligible FIFA members Spots in finals
(including hosts and intercontinental playoff spots)
Percentage of members with spots in finals Spots in 2022
(excluding hosts, including intercontinental playoff spots)
Change in percentage of slot allocation
AFC 46+1 8+13 17.4%+0.7% 4.5 77.8%+7.4%
CAF 54 9+13 16.7%+0.6% 5 80.0%+6.7%
CONCACAF (hosts) 35 6+13 (+13) 17.1%+1.0% (+1.0%) 3.5 71.4%+9.5% (+9.5%)
CONMEBOL 10 6+13 60.0%+3.3% 4.5 33.3%+7.4%
OFC 11 1+13 9.1%+3.0% 0.5 100%+66.7%
UEFA 55 16 29.1% 13 23.1%
Total 211+1 48 22.7% 31 + 1 (hosts) 50%

The issue of how to allocate automatic host country qualification given that there are multiple host countries has not yet been resolved and will be decided by the FIFA council.[21][22][23] The United bid anticipated that all three host countries would be awarded automatic places.[24]

The ratification of slot allocation gives the OFC a guaranteed berth in the final tournament for the first time in FIFA World Cup history. The 2026 FIFA World Cup will be the first tournament in which all six confederations have guaranteed berths.

Playoff tournamentEdit

A playoff tournament involving six teams will be held to decide the last two FIFA World Cup berths,[21] consisting of one team per confederation (except for UEFA) and one additional team from the confederation of the host countries (CONCACAF).

Two of the teams will be seeded based on the FIFA Men's World Rankings; the seeded teams will play for a FIFA World Cup berth against the winners of the first two knockout games involving the four unseeded teams.

The tournament is to be played in one or more of the host countries and to be used as a test event for the FIFA World Cup. The existing playoff on November 2025 have been suggested as a tentative date for the 2026 edition.

VenuesEdit

During the bidding process, 41 cities with 43 existing, fully functional venues and two venues under construction submitted to be part of the bid (three venues in three cities in Mexico, nine venues in seven cities in Canada and 38 venues in 34 cities in the United States). A first-round elimination cut nine venues and nine cities. A second-round elimination cut an additional nine venues in six cities, while three venues in three cities (Chicago, Minneapolis and Vancouver) dropped out due to FIFA's unwillingness to discuss financial details,[26]. After Montreal dropped out in July 2021,[27] Vancouver was reinstated as a candidate city in April 2022,[28] bringing the total number to 24 venues, each in their own city or metropolitan area (except Los Angeles).

Although there are soccer-specific stadiums in Canada and the United States designed with the sport in mind, the largest dedicated soccer-specific stadium in the U.S., Geodis Park in Nashville, seats 30,000, which falls short of FIFA's minimum of 40,000 (Toronto's candidate venue, which is an MLS stadium, is being expanded from 30,000 to 45,500 for this tournament). However, there are some stadiums, like Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta and Lumen Field in Seattle, that are used by both NFL and MLS teams. Although primarily used for gridiron football, with the American stadiums having hosted National Football League teams, and Canada's stadiums hosting the Canadian Football League (CFL), all of the Canadian and American stadiums have been used on numerous occasions for association football matches and are also designed to host association football events.

On June 16, 2022, the host cities were announced by FIFA, separated into three geographical divisions: Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Guadalajara in the Western Division, Kansas City, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Monterrey, and Mexico City in the Central Division and Toronto, Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, and Miami in the Eastern Division (2 in Canada, 3 in Mexico and 11 in the United States).[29]

Mexico City is the only capital of the three host nations chosen as a venue site, with Ottawa and Washington, D.C., joining Bonn (West Germany, 1974) and Tokyo (Japan, 2002) as the only capital cities not selected to host World Cup matches. Washington was a host city candidate, but combined its bid with Baltimore's due to the poor state of FedEx Field. Other cities eliminated from the final hosting list were Cincinnati, Denver, Nashville, Orlando, and Edmonton. Ottawa's candidate venue, the TD Place Stadium was eliminated early on due to insufficient capacity. None of the stadiums used in the 1994 World Cup will be used in this tournament, and the Azteca is the only stadium being used in this tournament that was used in the 1970 and 1986 World Cups.[30]

A   denotes a stadium used for previous men's World Cup tournaments (Mexico only).
A   denotes an indoor stadium with a fixed or retractable roof (United States and Canada only).
  Mexico City[31]   New York/New Jersey[31]   Dallas[31]   Kansas City[31]   Houston[31]
Estadio Azteca  MetLife Stadium
(East Rutherford, New Jersey)
AT&T Stadium 
(Arlington, Texas)
Arrowhead Stadium NRG Stadium 
Capacity: 87,523 Capacity: 82,500
(Bid book capacity: 87,157)
Capacity: 80,000
(Bid book capacity: 92,967)
(expandable to 105,000)
Capacity: 76,416
(Bid book capacity: 76,640)
Capacity: 72,220
         
  Atlanta[31]   Los Angeles[31][32]
Mercedes-Benz Stadium  SoFi Stadium
(Inglewood, California)
Capacity: 71,000
(Bid book capacity: 75,000)
(expandable to 83,000)
Capacity: 70,240
(expandable to 100,240)
   
  Philadelphia[31]   Seattle[31]
Lincoln Financial Field Lumen Field
Capacity: 69,796
(Bid book capacity: 69,328)
Capacity: 69,000
(expandable to 72,000)
   
  San Francisco Bay Area[31]   Boston[31]
Levi's Stadium
(Santa Clara, California)
Gillette Stadium
(Foxborough, Massachusetts)
Capacity: 68,500
(Bid book capacity: 70,909)
(expandable to 75,000)
Capacity: 65,878
(Bid book capacity: 70,000)
   
  Miami[31]   Vancouver[28]   Monterrey[31]   Guadalajara[31]   Toronto[31]
Hard Rock Stadium
(Miami Gardens, Florida)
BC Place  Estadio BBVA
(Guadalupe, Nuevo León)
Estadio Akron
(Zapopan, Jalisco)
BMO Field
Capacity: 64,767
(Bid book capacity: 67,518)
Capacity: 54,500 Capacity: 53,500
(Bid book capacity: 53,460)
Capacity: 49,850
(Bid book capacity: 48,071)
Capacity: 30,000
(Expanding to 45,500 for tournament)
         

CriticismsEdit

The European Club Association and its member clubs opposed the proposal for expanding the World Cup, saying that the number of games was already at an "unacceptable" level and they urged the governing body to reconsider its idea of increasing the number of teams that qualify.[33] They contended that it was a decision taken for political reasons because Infantino would thus satisfy his electorate, rather than for sporting reasons.[34] Liga Nacional de Fútbol Profesional (La Liga) president Javier Tebas agreed, asserting the unacceptability of the new format. He told Marca that the football industry is maintained thanks to clubs and leagues, not FIFA, and that Infantino had used the promise of more countries playing in the World Cup to win his election.[35] German national team coach Joachim Löw warned that expansion, as had occurred for Euro 2016, would dilute the value of the world tournament because players have already reached their physical and mental limit.[36]

U.S. President Donald Trump's executive orders regarding immigration from certain Muslim-majority countries implemented in 2017 was touted as a potential risk, with Infantino saying, "Any team, including the supporters and officials of that team, who qualify for a World Cup need to have access to the country, otherwise there is no World Cup."[37] In response, the Trump administration sent letters to FIFA that read, in part, that Trump was "confident" that "all eligible athletes, officials and fans from all countries around the world would be able to enter the United States without discrimination."[38] In 2018, Trump then questioned the countries that intended to support the Morocco bid to host the 2026 World Cup, tweeting: "The US has put together a STRONG bid w/ Canada & Mexico for the 2026 World Cup. It would be a shame if countries that we always support were to lobby against the U.S. bid. Why should we be supporting these countries when they don't support us (including at the United Nations)?"[39] In January 2021, the travel ban was reversed by his successor Joe Biden.[40]

In March 2022, Liga MX president Mikel Arriola claimed Mexico's involvement as cohost could have been at risk if the league and the federation had not responded quickly to the Querétaro–Atlas riot between rival fans that left 26 spectators injured and resulted in 14 arrests. Arriola said FIFA was "shocked" by the incident but Infantino was satisfied with the sanctions handed down against Querétaro.[41]

Broadcasting rightsEdit

On February 12, 2015, Fox, Telemundo, and Bell Media's rights to the tournament were renewed by FIFA to cover 2026, without accepting any other bids. The New York Times believed that this extension was intended as compensation for the rescheduling of the 2022 World Cup to November–December rather than its traditional June–July scheduling, which falls during the National Football League season (in which Fox is a main U.S. rightsholder) and the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League seasons.[49][50][51]

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit