With Qatar out the way, the next World Cup begins in North America in 2026

DOHA, Qatar – The men’s World Cup era ended on Sunday with one of the most dramatic finals in history. It was a dual era of corruption and bribery, but also GOAT and commercial growth. Even as the US Department of Justice exposed FIFA, business at soccer’s world governing body was booming. From 1998, when the first 32-team World Cup was held, to 2022, revenue has quadrupled. Despite the undeniable controversy surrounding Qatar, the tournament and its brand are as popular as ever.

However, FIFA is changing that. The 2026 edition promises to have a “massive” impact on North American soccer, with 48 teams in the United States, Canada and Mexico, a new format.

FIFA’s first order of business is to figure out exactly what the new format will look like.

How will the 2026 World Cup change?

The expansion from 32 to 48 teams caused the organizers to hesitate. FIFA was originally divided into 16 groups of three, with two of the three qualifying for the 32-team knockout stage. But amid growing public opposition, officials have admitted the proposed scheme will weaken the division’s ladder.

“I think we have to look back or at least reconsider,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino told a press conference on Friday.

A possible solution is 12 groups of 4, with the top 2 and 3rd place teams advancing. The best solution would be 12 groups of 4, with only the top two advancing and the top eight teams from each group advancing to the last 16. However, it is unclear whether FIFA considered the latter option.

The 37-member, all-powerful FIFA Council will decide and finalize the format in 2023.

The 2026 World Cup will be big in every way

Expansion means more games. But North America, unlike the World Cup, means big stadiums, sponsor incentives and visitor traffic. Infantino said FIFA expects at least 5 million fans from other continents to come to the United States, Canada and Mexico, in addition to the millions of North American fans who will attend matches and celebrations.

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Hosted by the United States in 1994, the last 24-team event still holds the record for total World Cup attendance. FIFA World Cup chief Colin Smith said in June that 2026 could break that record and double the previous record.

“2026 is going to be much, much, much bigger,” Infantino agreed. “I don’t think this part of the world understands what’s going to happen here in 2026. I mean, these three countries will fall upside down. The world will attack Canada, Mexico, the United States. And they will be attacked. A big wave of joy and happiness.”

The trophy is displayed on the field before the soccer World Cup final between Argentina and France at Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022.  (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

The World Cup will be held in North America in 2026. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Accordingly, FIFA has budgeted $11 billion in revenue for the 2026 cycle, a significant increase from the $7.5 billion earned over the past four years. Infantino cited broadcasting and sponsorship deals, ticket sales and hospitality packages as reasons for the jump.

He also said: “We are confident that football will flourish in North America as we begin operations on December 19. [next] Men’s [World Cup]. … We are sure of that [soccer] The #1 sport in North America. Maybe start at No. 2 and then as time goes by, we’re confident in the strength of our game.”

Where will the 2026 World Cup be held?

FIFA has selected 16 cities in North America, including 11 cities in the United States, to host the games. These cities (and stadiums) are:

  • New York/East Rutherford, NJ (MetLife Stadium)

  • Philadelphia (Lincoln Financial Field)

  • Boston/Foxborough (Gillet Stadium)

  • Miami (Hard Rock Stadium)

  • Atlanta (Mercedes-Benz Stadium)

  • Houston (NRG Stadium)

  • Dallas/Arlington (AT&T Stadium)

  • Kansas City (Arrowhead Stadium)

  • Los Angeles/Inglewood (SoFi Stadium)

  • San Francisco/Santa Clara (Levi Stadium)

  • Seattle (Lumen Square)

  • Mexico City (Azteca)

  • Monterrey (Estadio BBVA)

  • Guadalajara (Estadio Akron)

  • Toronto (BMO Field)

  • Vancouver (BC)

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FIFA did not say how many matches each city would host, but the North American bid committee recommended a minimum of five matches in one US city, including two in the knockout stages.

When will we know the full schedule?

Fifa vice president Victor Montagliani said in June that the schedule shell is “being worked on.” It will be released in late 2023 or early 2024 and should show the dates and locations of every game from the opening game to the final. .

Two sources told Yahoo Sports earlier this year that the two favorites to host the Finals were AT&T Stadium in Texas and MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

The full schedule, including teams and kick-off times, cannot be known until after the World Cup draw, which is decided in December 2025.

The tournament is likely to start in early June 2026.

Will the US, Canada and Mexico automatically qualify?

Yes. But this is not 100% official, because the federation has not confirmed the qualification for the World Cup, but the USA, Canada and Mexico will qualify automatically.

All this and the qualification structure of each association should be confirmed next year.

What will the exchange rate of the US dollar be by 2026?

For the reasons explained here, the US should be better in 2022 than ever before.

ARLINGTON, USA - SEPTEMBER 08: A general view of the stadium before the friendly match between Argentina and Mexico at AT&T Stadium on September 08, 2015 in Arlington, USA.  (Photo by Omar Vega / Latino Content via Getty Images)

AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas is an option to host the 2026 World Cup final. (Photo by Omar Vega / Latino Content via Getty Images)

What are the odds for the 2026 World Cup?

Criticism over Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers and LGBTQ people has at least ended the 2022 World Cup early. The 2026 tournament is unlikely to be as controversial, but organizers are wary of a number of potential problems.

  1. Heat. Ironically, after all the fuss about Qatar’s climate, some US cities will be hotter in the summer than in Doha in November and December. Eight of the 16 cities in North America regularly experience June temperatures in the 90s, and only three of those eight stadiums have roofs. Infantino said earlier this year that climate-friendly venues could be nominated for afternoon games, while outdoor games would start in the evening. But the heat can affect fans away from the stadium.

  2. Shoot. For all Qatari issues, it is a very safe country. But for the United States and Mexico, it is a little less. FIFA can enforce tight security at matches and official fan celebrations, but governments can’t control guns and ensure safety anywhere else if they don’t.

  3. Travel. Qatar’s size was beneficial in many ways. It will be difficult and environmentally friendly in North America. It will be very difficult for fans to see several games at a reasonable price.

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Will there be a 64-team World Cup in the future?

The men’s World Cup has been expanded three times in 44 years, roughly once every two decades. There’s no reason to think it won’t expand again to 64 teams by 2050.

More teams equals more money and more growth for the sport. A 64-team field is no more difficult than a 48-team field. The final is likely to be a 64-team tournament spread across all regions or continents, including South America, South Asia, North and West Africa.

When is the next Women’s World Cup?

That’s — *checks calendar* — seven months!

It will be the shortest time between Qatar, which starts on July 20, and the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

When will the next World Cup be held?

Last week, FIFA decided to choose the host country for the 2027 Women’s World Cup, 2030 Men’s World Cup 2024, and the next year’s 2031 Women’s World Cup.

The U.S. Soccer Association has said it will bid for the women’s tournament in 2027 or 2031.

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