Once the most compact World Cup in history reaches its climax on Sunday in Qatar, the baton will pass to the United States, Mexico, and Canada, co-hosts in 2026, in what will be a world-class football extravaganza, with more than parties and trips, and much more beer.
Following the controversial award of the 2022 organization to Qatar, a country smaller than the state of Connecticut, football’s governing body FIFA is going all out in 2026, increasing the number of teams from 32 to 48, with matches in three nations and as many time zones.
The last time Mexico (1986) and the United States (1994) organized a World Cup there were 24 teams. But in the upcoming championship, with 16 cities across the United States, Canada, and Mexico, the logistics will be mind-boggling, even before adding the 48-team training bases.
The 2026 tournament will return to its traditional summer period, after being held in November and December in Qatar to avoid the scorching temperatures of June and July. Most of the competition will take place in the United States, where 11 cities, from New York to Los Angeles, will host 60 of the 80 matches, including the quarterfinals, semifinals, and final.
Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey will be the Mexican venues, while Toronto and Vancouver will be the Canadian ones. Although the World Cup in Qatar has been overshadowed at times by the Gulf country’s treatment of immigrant labor, its focus on LGBT+ or women’s rights, and other restrictive social laws, FIFA President Gianni Infantino was full of praise for the action on the pitch, describing the group stage as the best ever.
SURPRISES IN AFRICA AND ASIA
The familiar format of eight groups of four teams, which has captivated hundreds of millions of fans, could be disrupted in 2026, as FIFA studies the possibility of establishing 16 groups of three teams in the first phase.
More teams will bring more surprises, such as Saudi Arabia’s victory over Argentina in their group stage opener, says Jürgen Klinsmann, who won a World Cup with Germany and later coached the United States men’s team.
“We are going to see more surprises coming from Africa and Asia in the (2026) tournament,” Klinsmann, head of FIFA’s technical group, told reporters in Qatar.
The World Cup in Qatar, with 32 teams, has been made up of a total of 64 games, which took place in 29 days, and, for now, the final phase of 2026 would have 80 games in 32 days.