What to anticipate from World Cup 2026: Variety of groups, venues and format

A general view of the Azteca Stadium
The Estadio Azteca in Mexico Metropolis is the one stadium being utilized in 2026 that was used within the 1970 and 1986 World Cups

Qatar 2022 will go down as probably the most “compact” Fifa World Cup in historical past – however 2026 will likely be very completely different.

Whereas all matches this time round have been performed inside a hour’s drive of one another, the subsequent World Cup will likely be performed throughout three nations – Canada, america and Mexico.

And it will likely be an expanded competitors, with 16 extra groups participating, which means extra matches.

Nevertheless, the match will nonetheless be performed out inside 5 weeks from mid-June 2026.

Questions will likely be requested concerning the quantity of journey gamers and followers should make, with the match being held in 11 US cities, together with three venues in Mexico and two in Canada.

Sustainability will, subsequently, be an necessary situation with the appreciable variety of flights wanted to move groups, followers, media and Fifa officers throughout three nations.

Why will there be extra groups than ever earlier than in 2026?

Fifa is increasing the subsequent males’s World Cup finals from 32 to 48 groups.

It means extra money will likely be generated by sponsorships, merchandising, ticket gross sales and broadcast revenues, with Fifa anticipating to earn $11bn over the four-year cycle as much as December 2026.

Bumper crowds are anticipated on the subsequent World Cup as the recognition of soccer in North America continues to develop.

Fifa is projecting as many as 5.5 million followers will attend the subsequent match, beating the document 3.6m supporters who attended video games in 1994, when there was a mean attendance of 68,000 at every recreation.

The governing physique claims that a lot of the elevated revenue will likely be redistributed to soccer improvement around the globe, with initiatives together with funding to broaden the ladies’s recreation.

The expanded format will enhance the variety of competing groups from Africa and Asia.

In 2022, there have been a complete of 11 groups from throughout the 2 confederations on the finals – together with Qatar, who certified routinely as hosts, and Australia, who took half within the Asian qualifiers after which beat Peru in an intercontinental play-off.

In 2026, there will likely be a minimal of 17 groups from throughout the 2 confederations – and there could possibly be as many as 19, relying on which two nations win by the six-team intercontinental play-offs for the finals.

A minimal of six Concacaf groups will qualify for the World Cup, together with Canada, Mexico and america as hosts – and the federation could have two sides within the play-offs as effectively.

The place will the matches be performed in 2026?

The crowd before the start of the 1994 World Cup final in California
The World Cup ultimate in 1994 was held on the Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena, California

The 16 venues have been introduced in June, with all of the grounds already constructed, and with nearly all of big-capacity stadiums utilized by NFL groups in america.

Among the stadiums will likely be upgraded earlier than 2026 and a few would require the laying of grass surfaces, as synthetic turf is just not permitted by Fifa.

Because it stands, the format for 2026 will imply 80 matches throughout the match – though that would nonetheless change. The US would host 60 matches, together with each match from the quarter-finals onward, whereas neighbouring Canada and Mexico would every host 10 matches.

Each the US and Mexico have hosted the World Cup earlier than – however many of the venues in 2026 will likely be completely different. The US is utilizing not one of the stadiums from 1994, whereas Mexico has only one venue from 1970 and 1986 – the long-lasting Estadio Azteca in Mexico Metropolis.

The host venues for 2026 are:

United States

  • New York/New Jersey (MetLife Stadium)
  • Los Angeles (SoFi Stadium)
  • Dallas (AT&T Stadium)
  • San Francisco Bay Space (Levi’s Stadium)
  • Miami (Exhausting Rock Stadium)
  • Atlanta (Mercedes-Benz Stadium)
  • Seattle (Lumen Subject)
  • Houston (NRG Stadium)
  • Philadelphia (Lincoln Monetary Subject)
  • Kansas Metropolis, Missouri (Arrowhead Stadium)
  • Boston/Foxborough (Gillette Stadium)


  • Toronto (BMO Subject)
  • Vancouver (BC Place Stadium)


  • Guadalajara (Estadio Akron)
  • Mexico Metropolis (Azteca Stadium)
  • Monterrey (BBVA Bancomer Stadium)

The geographical unfold for the subsequent World Cup has not but been introduced however it’s seemingly that groups will play their group-stage video games in regionalised zones.

There are three predominant venue clusters, which ought to assist scale back the quantity of journey wanted no less than for a part of the match.

Western area:

  • Vancouver
  • Seattle
  • San Francisco Bay Space
  • Los Angeles
  • Guadalajara

Central Area:

  • Kansas Metropolis
  • Dallas
  • Atlanta
  • Houston
  • Monterrey
  • Mexico Metropolis

Japanese Area:

  • Toronto
  • Boston
  • Philadelphia
  • Miami
  • New York/New Jersey

How will the 2026 finals be structured?

A ultimate determination will likely be made by the Fifa Council in 2023.

The preliminary favoured choice was to have 16 teams of three groups. Every crew would play two group video games, quite than three, with the primary two groups progressing to a brand new spherical of 32.

However the draw back to that could possibly be that the 2 groups taking part in within the final fixture might play out a particular end result to ship each groups by. That was alleged to have occurred in 1982 when West Germany and Austria superior on the expense of Algeria within the so-called ‘Shame of Gijon’.

Given the success of the four-team group format in 2022, the construction for 2026 will likely be revisited, based on Fifa president Gianni Infantino.

“I’ve to say after this World Cup, and the success of the teams of 4, we have now to revisit or rediscuss the format whether or not we go for 16 teams of three or 12 teams of 4.”

The indications are that it’s going to find yourself being 12 teams of 4, successfully cut up into two halves (like two Euros in a single go).

One other risk, although one which seems unlikely, is that group video games will not be allowed to complete as a draw. If the groups have been stage after 90 minutes, the end result could possibly be determined with a penalty shootout, with out the necessity for further time.

The place will the Fifa World Cup 2026 ultimate be performed?

A general view of the MetLife Stadium
The MetLife Stadium in New Jersey might host the ultimate

That call has not but been made however it will likely be within the subsequent 12 months.

The front-runner to host the ultimate is the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, which has a seated capability of 82,500 and is house to the New York Giants and New York Jets NFL groups.

The Azteca in Mexico has been put ahead as a possible host for the opening match.

Each venues are contenders to host the 2026 ultimate, however Fifa president Infantino mentioned world soccer’s governing physique will take their time with a choice.

“There are nonetheless some discussions to go on and we’ll definitely select the very best cities for the openings and the finals,” mentioned Infantino.

“However each match will likely be like a ultimate at this World Cup.”

And what about 2030?

That will likely be a particular centenary occasion, 100 years after the primary Fifa World Cup in Uruguay, which was contested by simply 13 groups.

Uruguay has claimed for a while that it ought to be awarded the match, probably in a joint bid with Argentina.

Spain and Portugal hope to be put ahead by Uefa, however England dropped its curiosity in favour of bidding for Uefa Euro 2028 together with Scotland, Wales, Northern Eire and the Republic of Eire.

Saudi Arabia could possibly be one other potential bidder, although that would imply one other winter match due to the excessive summer season temperatures within the Center East.

A choice on the hosts of the 2030 match will likely be made by the Fifa Council in 2024.

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