Soccer fans everywhere count the days until the 2026 World Cup, which the United States, Canada and Mexico will host. It’s the first time that the event will be contested across three countries, and it’ll also mark the debut of an expanded tournament format featuring 48 teams.
The 2026 World Cup is set to kick off in June and will be the first tournament to feature 48 teams since the format was expanded from 32. This will be a major change for the event, which has been held every four years since 1998, but it could prove to be a big draw for football fans around the globe.
FIFA has selected venues to host games at the 2026 World Cup. The selections were made Thursday, June 16, by FIFA officials in New York City.
There were dozens of cities from across the USA, Mexico and Canada that were competing for the coveted spots in the tournament. Ultimately, 11 American cities were chosen to host matches.
Of those, five are in the east (though FIFA interpreted Atlanta to be in the central area), three in the midwest and three in the west. Two Canadian cities were also selected, with Vancouver and Toronto joining the party in 2026.
Santa Clara, California’s Levi’s Stadium, has a history of hosting major soccer events and was an obvious choice. The venue has also hosted several Super Bowls, a College Football Playoff national championship game and other major sporting events.
Another obvious choice is Seattle, a large and diverse city in the Pacific Northwest. The venue has a long history of hosting soccer events, so it is a strong candidate to host the World Cup.
Philadelphia, a smaller but more diverse city in the Northeast, is another option. Its Lincoln Financial Field has a media market close to New Jersey, which would help with travel.
Another possibility is Baltimore, a large city in the eastern United States. Its proximity to other potential venues could be an advantage in attracting the World Cup.
Miami, a large city in Florida, is also an option, but it’s not as appealing to FIFA as other destinations. The city has a rich soccer tradition and has hosted numerous other major sports events, including more Super Bowls than any other city.
The World Cup format for the 2026 tournament is a bit more complicated than in years past, with FIFA confirming that the competition will expand to 48 teams. This means the field will be larger than ever, and it also opens up a lot of global matchups for fans.
On Tuesday at the 73rd FIFA Congress in Kigali, Rwanda, soccer’s global governing body approved a new format for the tournament. It will now feature 12 groups of four teams, bringing the total number of games to 104, up from 64 in Qatar 2022.
During the group stage, the top two teams from each of the 16 groups will progress, while eight third-placed teams will also advance to the knockout phase. This is a significant change from the previous 16-group structure, which eliminated two teams after every match.
But that extra game count will come at a cost, as the tournament will be longer. That’s likely a problem for players’ unions and clubs, who are already concerned about the heavy workload imposed by their teams’ year-round schedule.
In a statement, Fifa said: “The revised group stage format will mitigate the risk of collusion and ensure that all teams play a minimum of three matches while providing balanced rest time between competing teams.”
That’s not a bad idea. Having more games will increase the content for television broadcasters and ticket sales, which is a positive for FIFA.
It’s also a good move for the world cup, which has been limited to 32 teams since France ’98. Adding 16 more teams to the field will open up the competition for some of the less-famous nations around the globe.
The format will be finalized over the next year, with decisions on where specific matches will be played in each group and which cities will host the opening game and final. The venues have several possibilities, including Atlanta (MetLife Stadium), Boston and Mexico City.
But with the expanded format for 2026, many fans are worried that the world cup will lose its ability to provide meaningful international competition. As a result, some ask whether the world cup should be re-formed or if it should remain at 32 teams.
The 2026 world cup will be the biggest-ever tournament, with the number of teams increasing to 48 and an expanded format. The event will occur in the USA, Canada and Mexico, with 104 matches scheduled.
The match schedule begins with a record number of groups, each consisting of four countries. The top two teams in each group advance to the knockout stage along with the eight best third-placed sides. The tournament will last 40 game days in North America, with the opening match on May 31 and the final being played on July 19.
With a record number of teams and venues, FIFA has clarified that the 2026 world cup will be one of the most spectacular events in history. As such, the organization has announced that 16 host cities have been selected to host matches at the tournament.
Of the 16 host cities, 11 will be in the United States, with three in Mexico and two in Canada. Each host city will host eight matches.
All four quarter-finals and the final will be played in North America for the first time in a World Cup. The final will be held at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, and the semifinals will be played at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City.
While many fans will be excited about the world cup, it’s not without its drawbacks. The expansion of the tournament from 32 to 48 teams has created an overcrowded and hectic schedule, raising concerns about player welfare.
A key issue with the expansion is that it increases the number of games being played, making it difficult for fans to attend all of them. FIFA has responded to these concerns by releasing a working group to try and resolve the issue.
The committee will report back with a plan within the next few months. The plan includes the creation of a 32-team Club World Cup, which will allow confederation champions from the previous two years to qualify.
The world cup is the most watched sport globally, generating billions of dollars through ticket sales and broadcast rights. It also attracts a vast audience, with 5 billion viewers expected to attend the 2026 tournament.
During the last tournament in Qatar, each team received $440 million in prize money, with winners taking home a whopping $42 million and runners-up earning $30 million. Those who finish in the bottom half of the tournament receive $9 million each.
There is an important question that many people have about the money awarded to winning teams: how does it trickle down to the players?
As it turns out, the answer to that is complicated. While some players choose to keep their winnings, others pass them along to charity or their federations.
For example, Kylian Mbappe reportedly donated his 2018 prize money to charity. The English team, meanwhile, reportedly split theirs evenly between charity and the federation.
FIFA has an estimated $4 billion in cash reserves, including a $41 million bonus for president Gianni Infantino, who won re-election unopposed through 2027. The organization also has millions of dollars in marketing and communications spending on tap for the 2026 tournament.
In the meantime, women’s players are agitating for equal prize money between men’s and women’s World Cups. They argue that their share of the $440 million men’s pool was far lower than what they earned from their teams at the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France.
A new collective bargaining agreement between the U.S. Soccer Federation and the men’s and women’s unions is expected to provide that equitable treatment. Under that deal, 90% of the prize money paid by FIFA to the USSF will be pooled and shared equally between the players on this year’s men’s World Cup roster and next year’s Women’s World Cup roster.
According to ESPN, this will mean that each U.S. player on a World Cup team – male or female – will get an extra $50,000, or thereabouts, from the pooled payment.
It is still short of the reported $440m (PS365m) prize money on offer at last year’s men’s finals in Qatar, but it’s a step forward in the long run. In fact, FIFA President Infantino said at the 73rd Congress in Kigali that he wanted to see equal prize money between men’s and women’s tournaments by 2027.