Once the Most compact World Cup in history comes to a head on Sunday in Qatar, the baton will pass to United States, Mexico and Canadaco-hosts in 2026, in what will be a world football extravaganza in a big way, with more 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, soccer’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 many other time zones.
The last time that Mexico (1986) and the United States (1994) organized a World Cup there were 24 teams. But in the next championship, with 16 cities in the United States, Canada and Mexico, the logistics will be amazing, even before adding the 48 training bases of the teams.
America leads the way
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 be held in the United States, where 11 cities, from New York to Los Angeles, will host 60 of the 80 gamesincluding the Quarterfinals, the Semifinals and the Final.
Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey will be the Mexican venues, while Toronto and Vancouver the canadians. Although the World Cup in Qatar has been overshadowed at times by the Persian Gulf country’s treatment of immigrant labor, its focus on the rights of the LGBT+ collective or those of womenand other restrictive social laws, the President of FIFA, Gianni Infantinowas full of praise for the action on the pitch and described 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.
That there are more teams will bring more surprisesLike 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 US 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, consisted of a total of 64 matches, which took place in 29 daysand, for now, the final phase of 2026 would have 80 games in 32 days.