What to expect from World Cup 2026: Number of teams, venues, and format

The Fifa World Cup in Qatar in 2022 will be remembered as being the most “compact” in history; nevertheless, 2026 will be very different. The next World Cup will be held in Canada, the United States, and Mexico, whereas all of the games this time were played within an hour’s drive of one another.

Additionally, the competition will be larger with the participation of 16 additional teams, resulting in more matches. However, starting in mid-June 2026, the competition will still be completed in less than five weeks.

Since the event will be staged in 11 US cities in addition to three locations in Mexico and two in Canada, concerns will be raised regarding the amount of travel that participants and spectators will need to do. Given the large number of planes required to carry teams, supporters, media, and Fifa officials across three countries, sustainability will be a crucial concern.

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Why will there be more teams than ever before in 2026?

The next men’s World Cup finals will feature 48 teams, up from the previous 32. Fifa anticipates making $11 billion over the four-year cycle ending in December 2026 through sponsorships, merchandise, ticket sales, and broadcast revenues. The upcoming World Cup is projected to draw massive audiences due to the growing popularity of football in North America.

According to Fifa’s projections, up to 5.5 million spectators would attend the upcoming event, breaking the previous attendance record of 3.6 million set in 1994, when there were 68,000 on average at each match. The governing body asserts that a large portion of the extra profit will be invested in projects that will advance women’s football around the world.

The number of competing teams from Asia and Africa will rise thanks to the extended format. 11 teams from the two confederations combined to compete in the 2022 finals, including Qatar, which was automatically eligible to host the event, and Australia, which competed in the Asian qualifiers before defeating Peru in an intercontinental play-off.

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There will be at least 17 teams from the two confederations in 2026, and there may be as many as 19, depending on which two nations advance to the finals from the six-team intercontinental play-offs. Concacaf will have two teams in the playoffs and at least six countries will qualify for the World Cup, including the hosts, Canada, Mexico, and the United States.

Where will the matches be played in 2026?

All of the 16 venues were completed when they were revealed in June, and most NFL clubs in the United States play in large stadiums. Some of the stadiums will be updated before 2026, while some will need grass fields installed because Fifa forbids the use of artificial turf.

The current plan for 2026 calls for 80 matches to be played during the competition, though that could change. Every match from the quarterfinals on would be played in the United States, which would host 60 games. Neighboring countries Canada and Mexico would each host 10 games.

Both the US and Mexico have already hosted the World Cup, but most of the locations will be different in 2026. While Mexico has just one venue from 1970 and 1986, the renowned Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, the US uses none of the stadiums from 1994. The 2026 host locations are:

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United States

New York/New Jersey (MetLife Stadium)

Los Angeles (SoFi Stadium)

Dallas (AT&T Stadium)

San Francisco Bay Area (Levi’s Stadium)

Miami (Hard Rock Stadium)

Atlanta (Mercedes-Benz Stadium)

Seattle (Lumen Field)

Houston (NRG Stadium)

Philadelphia (Lincoln Financial Field)

Kansas City, Missouri (Arrowhead Stadium)

Boston/Foxborough (Gillette Stadium)


Toronto (BMO Field)

Vancouver (BC Place Stadium)

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Guadalajara (Estadio Akron)

Mexico City (Azteca Stadium)

Monterrey (BBVA Bancomer Stadium)

Although the next World Cup’s geographic distribution has not yet been revealed, it is expected that countries will play their group-stage matches in regionalized zones. Three major site clusters exist, which should at least cut down on travel requirements for a portion of the tournament.

Western region:



San Francisco Bay Area

Los Angeles


Central Region:

Kansas City





Mexico City

Eastern Region:





New York/New Jersey

How will the 2026 finals be structured?

The Fifa Council will make a final judgment in 2023. Initially, having 16 groups of three teams was the preferred configuration. Instead of three group games for each club, there would only be two, with the top two teams moving on to a new round of 32.

The drawback to that, though, is that the two teams competing in the final game might produce a specific outcome that advances both teams. That allegedly occurred in 1982 during the so-called “Disgrace of Gijon,” in which West Germany and Austria advanced at Algeria’s expense.

Gianni Infantino, the president of Fifa, said that the configuration for 2026 will be reviewed in light of the success of the four-team group format in 2022. After the World Cup and the success of the groups of four, “I have to say, we have to review or rediscuss the format, whether we go for 16 groups of three or 12 groups of four.”

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It appears that it will wind up being divided into 12 groups of four, or two halves (like two Euros in one go). There is also the chance that group games won’t be permitted to end in draws, but this seems improbable. Without the need for further time, a penalty shootout may decide the winner if the sides were tied after 90 minutes.

Where will the Fifa World Cup 2026 final be played?

Although it has not yet been decided, it will in the next year. The MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, which has a seating capacity of 82,500 and is the home of the NFL teams New York Giants and New York Jets, is the front-runner to host the championship. The Azteca in Mexico has been suggested as a possible venue for the first game.

Both locations are in the running to host the 2026 championship game, but Fifa president Infantino stated the organization will take its time making a choice. Infantine stated that “there are still some conversations to have, and we’ll choose the finest cities for the openings and the finals.” “But at this, every game will be like the championship,”

And what about 2030?

100 year after the first Fifa World Cup in Uruguay, which included only 13 teams, that particular centennial tournament will take place. Uruguay has long argued that it ought to win the competition, perhaps in a joint attempt with Argentina.

Although England had expressed interest in competing for Uefa Euro 2028 along with Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland, it withdrew its proposal in favor of Spain and Portugal, who are hoping to be nominated by Uefa.

Another bidder might be Saudi Arabia, although, given the hot summers in the Middle East, it might mean another winter competition. The Fifa Council will decide on the hosts of the 2030 competition in 2024.

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