That went by fast, didn’t it!
After a summer’s worth of anticipation, the 2022 World Cup has in Qatar has come and gone, with a champion (Argentina) decided on Sunday following a month of action that had much of the world’s attention.
Now, that same attention from soccer enthusiasts around the world is focused on our part of the globe.
With this World Cup being played in November and December instead of the summer, it’ll be a shorter turnaround than usual when the 2026 World Cup returns to its customary summer timeframe and is held in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
While there is still much to be sorted out logistically for the event, here is what we know at the moment about World Cup 2026.
Host cities have been determined
Over the summer, FIFA, the world’s governing body for soccer, announced the host cities in each country for the World Cup. Here they are as broken down by country.
Canada - Toronto, Vancouver
Mexico - Guadalajara, Mexico City, Monterrey
United States - Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, New York/New Jersey, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle.
It hasn’t been announced which cities will play host to the quarterfinals and semifinals, and championship game, although it’s a good bet the site of the final will be New York/New Jersey.
The sites were chosen largely on stadium capacity, so cities with larger football stadiums willing to host instead of having soccer-only stadiums were prioritized.
Tickets won’t go on sale for a while
For the recently played World Cup in Qatar, tickets didn’t go on sale until January, roughly 10 months before the event started. Expect a similar timeframe for 2026.
There will be way more teams competing
The field will be expanded from 32 teams to 48 teams in 2026, and going forward, expect multiple nations to team up to host the World Cup in future years with more stadiums needed. The U.S., Canada and Mexico have automatically qualified as hosts, so the qualifying stage in the next couple of years will determine the other 45 teams.
The format is up in the air
This has already been a much-discussed topic. Coming up with a format for 32 teams was relatively easy. Just divide the field into eight groups of four, with the top two teams advancing to the round of 16/knockout stage. Figuring out a way to accommodate 48 teams will be much for difficult, and it will be the most important thing FIFA has to do in the coming months.
There was talk about dividing the field into 16 groups of three teams, with the top two teams advancing and the knockout stage having 32 teams instead of 16.
But FIFA is worried that will lead to some meaningless games late in group stage where it’s already known who will advance.
So, what are other options?
FIFA could choose to five the field into 12 groups of four teams, with the top two in each group and the eight best third-place finishers advancing.
Another option could be to divide the field into two, 24-team halves that within those halves feature six groups of four teams. The winners of each of those halves would eventually play in the championship game.
There could also be scenarios where group winners are given byes into certain rounds.
Expectations will be higher for host nations
The United States advanced to the round of 16 in Qatar, while Canada and Mexico didn’t get out of the group stage. The same results won’t cut it for all three nations in 2026.
Getting past group stage was the realistic goal for the U.S., which had the second-youngest roster at the World Cup and the youngest roster in the country’s history at the event. But many of those core players who play in Europe such as Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, Christian Pulisic, Tim Weah, Sergino Dest, Josh Sargent and Brendan Aaronson, will be in their primes in 2026.
This will have to be where the U.S. breaks through and shows it can just do more than compete with the traditional world powers, but beat them and get to later stages of the event. We’re not suggesting it’s World Cup title or bust by any means, but it’s time to do more than just be happy advancing to the round of 16.
Canada is in a similar situation, given it also has a young core that in 2026 will be in their primes, such as Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David and Tajon Buchanan.
The Canadians were thrilled to be in Qatar since it was only the second time they had ever qualified for a World Cup, and they managed to score the first goals they ever have in the competition.
It wasn’t heartbreaking to not get out of the group stage, but as is the case with the U.S., it’s time for more. Anything less than getting to to the knockout round on home soil in 2026 will be a major disappointment for Canada.
Mexico failed to advance out of the group stage at a World Cup for the first time since 1978, which led to a coaching change.
The Mexicans have an older core than the American and Canadians, but there still should be enough upcoming young talent in the pipeline to avoid the bad results of Qatar and have expectations of a lengthy run in 2026.