The 2018 World Cup is wowed audiences around the globe as Russia played host to one of the most exciting tournaments in recent history with games packed full of goals, action, and talking points.
While the next World Cup is sure to spark its own controversies, especially given that it is taking place in Winter rather than the usual Summer months, the focus and attention have already started to look beyond that.
It was announced recently that the 2026 World Cup will be hosted by USA, Canada, and Mexico as the three nations split the responsibility of hosting the tournament and people are already talking about which stadiums they want to visit, planning routes and looking at potential flight prices.
However, before anyone can start booking their trips to one of the three lavish destinations, their country has to actually qualify for the tournament. We might be a long way away from the qualifiers, but there are certain countries who are building impressive squads that should see them take part in the 2026 tournament. The 2026 tournament will also expand to 48 teams from the current 32, which means we'll see a lot of first-time qualifiers, or countries that otherwise would've never had a chance under a 32-team format.
Whether they are blessed with incredible talent that should still be performing at that stage, or they have an incredibly impressive youth system, this article will look at 20 countries which may qualify for the 2026 World Cup.
The Cameroon national side failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, which was a major surprise as they are the most successful African nation in the history of the World Cup.
Cameroon has taken part in seven different World Cups and the national side will be aiming to add another tournament to that when the 2026 tournament rolls around, with their vibrant colors and passionate fans, the national side always add plenty of flair to a tournament.
As the 2026 World Cup will have 48 sides for the first time in history, it's very likely more teams from Africa will qualify for the tournament, and given Cameroon's experience, you would expect them to certainly be one of them.
The country has a new generation of players ready to make history for Cameroon and with the qualification system very likely to change in Africa, allowing more than five teams to progress to the World Cup, they will surely have a chance to impress in 2026.
19 Northern Ireland
In recent years the Northern Irish soccer side has made incredible strides forward, becoming a side to be reckoned with. In the 2016 European Championships, Northern Ireland qualified for a major tournament for the first time in 30 years, going on to be one of the most entertaining teams in the entire competition.
The squad was very unlucky not to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, only losing out in the playoffs, which shows they're no longer the little side that is never going to qualify for tournaments.
Instead, Northern Ireland is now a team to keep an eye on as they continue to improve and with an incredibly passionate and dedicated fanbase, the green army will be ready to follow their side all the way to America to get behind them.
The 2026 World Cup is going to be hosted by not just one, not just two, but three nations, with the United States, Mexico, and Canada all sharing the responsibility of hosting the prestigious tournament.
Ten games will take place in Mexico and Canada, while the rest will be spread across the States which should make for a very fun tournament. However, when it comes to the set-up of the tournament itself, this does confuse things.
Normally the host nation would be entered into the World Cup automatically without having to qualify like the rest of the countries do, but with there being three nations hosting, it's currently unknown how many will be given that free pass.
For Mexico and USA, they are two teams who (normally) would be expected to qualify regardless, but for Canada, seeing them take part in a World Cup would be a real shock and getting the free pass might be the only way that ever happens.
Chile was a national side that many people were surprised failed to qualify for the 2018 Russia World Cup, but with 48 teams set to play in the 2026 tournament, it's incredibly unlikely that a quality side like Chile will fail again.
With the star man of Alexis Sanchez and an attacking side built all around him, Chile is one of the most vibrant national sides in world football who play incredibly quick and exciting soccer, which is why it was a major shock for them to not qualify.
Chile has won the last two Copa Americas and was recently ranked as high as fourth in the FIFA rankings of World Football, which showcases just how talented the team really is and why people were expecting them to qualify.
When it comes to the 2026 World Cup, you can expect Chile to be a guaranteed national team to be competing with the failure of 2018 behind them, they could easily be a darkhorse in the competition.
Much like Canada, the expectation will be for USA that they will automatically qualify for the World Cup as they are one of the three nations hosting the tournament, especially with America playing host to the vast majority of the games.
However, if FIFA decides to give none of the teams a free entry, due to the fact there are three hosts, that would mean USA would need to go an qualify off their own backs and get the job done themselves.
Following the failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the USA will be hoping not to repeat that same feat again, especially when they're hosting the entire tournament, with the country wanting to get behind their team.
As the MLS continues to improve and grow in popularity, naturally, the quality of the national team will improve as younger players start to break through and the national side will be looking to make its mark in 2026.
15 Ivory Coast
In the past decade, the Ivory Coast national soccer team became one of the very best in Africa with the classic orange strip being something that everyone would expect to see at major tournaments.
Sadly, they failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup as the team is going through a major transitional period with legends such as Didier Drogba, Kolo, and YaYa Toure and more all starting to either come to the end or have already retired from playing.
However, the squad has a bright future with some very talented players starting to come through, especially Wilfried Zaha who is an incredibly quick and tricky winger who is set to help fire Ivory Coast back into major success.
While they didn't qualify this year, it's very likely they will be back at their very best and taking part in the 2026 World Cup tournament, potentially being one of the surprises of the competition.
14 Saudi Arabia
It was a surprise to many to see Saudi Arabia qualify in 2018 and many considered them to be the weakest team in the entire tournament, but they eventually won their final group game before being knocked out.
Saudi Arabia showcased exactly why they were in the World Cup during their three games, performing with plenty of heart and talent and with this experience behind them, they will be hoping to qualify again, for 2026.
Saudi Arabia is one of the fastest growing countries in the world right now, with lots of money being pumped into the country its expansion and growth is incredible to watch and as that happens, the quality of their sports teams is only going to grow with it.
With the nation now having a team of heroes from the 2018 World Cup, it is only going to inspire the upcoming talent to continue in their footsteps and attempt to be part of the 2026 tournament.
Venezuela is a national team that hasn't made a massive impact on the world stage, having never qualified for a single World Cup competition in its history.
This could all be set to change heading into the 2026 World Cup though when the country may just be set to break its history and finally qualify, in what would be an incredible moment for the entire country.
Right now Venezuela has an incredibly promising team coming through the ranks with its Under 20 side having an incredible World Cup tournament, topping its group comfortably before going on to have major success.
The team reached the final of the tournament only to lose out to England which shows that there is a major possibility that in 2026 this team will continue its success by qualifying for the major World Cup.
Scotland hasn't qualified for a World Cup since 1998 so it has been an incredibly long time since the country was represented on the world's stage at the biggest soccer tournament in history.
The country has consistently come incredibly close to qualifying, just missing out in the final group games or losing out by just a point while all the other British sides have managed to make big strides and improvements.
Scotland may find themselves benefitting from the increased size of the 2026 World Cup, with this being a year that has more teams which should mean more will qualify from all around the World, including Europe.
The Scottish team is certainly improving and has plenty of young talent coming through its ranks which should see them progress leaps and bounds in the coming years, hopefully to the point where they can finally qualify.
11 Costa Rica
Costa Rica has been making steady progress as a soccer side in recent years and has managed to qualify for the last four out of five tournaments, clearly showing the improvements they are making.
Not only is the main Costa Rica side improving but the youth teams are also growing in quality and confidence which is set to provide the future of the country with even greater results moving forward.
Costa Rica will be hoping to now become a regular World Cup side who qualify on a constant basis rather than at random times and it is clear that the team is moving in that direction.
The Indian national soccer team has never qualified for a World Cup competition, which is quite staggering when you consider the size of the country.
However more teams than ever will be in the 2026 United World Cup and this provides India with its best ever opportunity to finally qualify and with the soccer team making major strides in recent years this could be perfect timing.
India recently broke into the top 100 teams in the FIFA rankings for the first time in 21 years and even though those rankings are not the most accurate way to judge teams, it's a sign the team is improving drastically.
The team has also managed to secure qualification for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup recently, showcasing that they're able to achieve major results in important matches.
Who can forget the incredible achievements of the Ghana national soccer team in the 2010 South African World Cup, when Ghana took the entire world by surprise and everyone got behind them hoping to see a major surprise with them going far in the tournament.
Nobody who watched that tournament will forget the tough way they were knocked out by Uruguay via a penalty shootout after almost scoring a winner in the game only for Luis Suarez to handball the shot on the line.
Seeing Ghana qualify for another tournament would likely only reignite the passion and love that everybody had for them with their obvious heart and desire being clear for everyone to see on the pitch.
As previously mentioned, there is likely going to be a change to how many African nations can qualify with 48 teams playing in the 2026 World Cup, Ghana will likely manage to secure that qualification.
Over the past decade, Portugal has been a team that has always done well and are expected to at least make the Quarter-Finals but have never been seen as a major threat to go and win a World Cup.
That all changed when Portugal became the European Champions in 2016, despite having many lackluster performances on the route to that final game. However, one of the key factors for the success of the national side has been Christiano Ronaldo.
His talent and ability have been able to drag Portugal through at times, and even though he has stated he wants to play until he is 40 years old, it's incredibly unlikely he will be playing for Portugal when it comes to the 2026 World Cup.
For Portugal, it will be a new transitional period where the nation will have to hang its hat on a new hero, one they will be hoping is just as talented as Ronaldo, but either way the fighting spirit of the squad should see them qualify.
At one point Greece was one of the top European teams in soccer, especially when they pulled off the major surprise to win the European Championships against all the odds in 2004, showing exactly what a country can achieve with true grit and spirit.
However, since then the side has struggled to stick at the level and has failed to even qualify for the past two major tournaments, with pretty disastrous qualification campaigns for both of them not helping matters.
Recently the Greek side has relied heavily upon older players who were not able to keep up the pace with their younger opponents and the increasing speed in which the game is played at, yet that is now going to have to change.
With a changing of the guard set to take place in the coming years, there is a very good chance that the Greek team will be able to make the major improvements needed to get back to qualifying at the very minimum.
Turkey failed in its attempt to qualify for the Russia 2018 World Cup after issues between the Turkish Football Federation and the team's senior players dragged on from the 2016 European Championships.
This massively affected the way in which the team played and how the morale was within the squad with support for the team dwindling, showing just how big the problems had become for the team.
Things may be set to improve for the national side with the country apparently wanting to focus on setting up an identity and a style of play from the youth teams all the way up to the senior setup.
This is something that is crucial for any national side if they are wanting to have any real impact and if the country can achieve that then the success will only follow.
Fresh off their first World Cup appearance in 38 years, Peru is once again back on the map as far as world soccer is concerned, putting in a good account for themselves during their time in Russia.
Not only were they entertaining on the pitch, but they brought more fans than most countries, showing just how passionate Peru is about soccer and how much qualification meant to the country, something they will want to repeat again.
With the 2026 World Cup not being as far away for Peru, there will no doubt be a massive amount of support once again and if the national side can capitalize on the performances leading up to the Russia World Cup then there is no reason why they shouldn't be appearing in 2026.
Peru dominated their qualification for the 2018 tournament and if the country can build some momentum, potentially by qualifying for the Qatar World Cup then they could be an exciting prospect.
The traditional orange strip of the Netherlands has been sorely missed from the 2018 World Cup after the Holland side failed to qualify for the tournament, which was a bitterly disappointing moment for the country.
This marked the second major tournament that the squad had failed to qualify for after not managing to qualify for the 2016 Euros either, proving that the side may no longer be as dominant and feared as it once was.
Considering the incredible amount of talent that is available to the Netherlands, not qualifying at all really is a very poor situation, especially when you consider the previous two World Cups saw them reach the Final and Semi-Finals.
After two tournaments worth of frustration, watching the other nations compete, it will now be crucial that the nation to qualify for the upcoming tournaments and the pressure firmly is on.
In recent years the Welsh side has really started coming into their own, stepping up to become one of Europe's top sides as their recent campaign in the Euros proved, with the squad getting all the way to the Semi-Finals.
For Wales the trick is simply continuing their form and becoming a more dominant side that manages to qualify every tournament, and given the talent that is within the squad that's something that could easily happen.
With the likes of Aaron Ramsey and of course, one of the world's best soccer players in Gareth Bale, the squad will likely be built around those two men and the United World Cup will likely serve as the very last chance either of them will have to play in a World Cup before retirement.
As the squad gains more and more experience it becomes clearer that they will be a major threat moving forward and qualification to the 2026 World Cup is something that will be a minimum requirement for them.
This may not be a team that you had even thought about in terms of one that may qualify for the World Cup in 2026 as they have never actually qualified for the tournament in its history, only joining FIFA in 1964.
However, that doesn't mean they won't be able to pull off a major surprise ahead of the 2026 United World Cup as just like several teams such as England, Venezuela, and Uruguay, they have a very impressive youth setup breaking into the ranks.
Zambia's U-20 side impressed during the recent U-20 World Cup reaching the Quarter-Finals only to be denied in extra time by the young Italian side, but the signs are positive for Zambia moving forward.
With more teams from Africa set to be allowed to qualify for 2026, this opens up a real door for the Zambian side to smash through and make soccer history for the major tournament.
While the 2018 Russia World Cup has been incredible to watch, one thing that has felt very strange is not seeing Italy. One of the greatest national sides in the history of soccer not being part of the World Cup took everyone by surprise and it has been very different not seeing that traditional kit on display.
Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and it's something that wasn't taken lightly, with the entire country being incredibly disappointed and frustrated at their national side's efforts and ultimate failure.
The squad is going through a slight transitional phase right now with several of the old guard moving on and newer, fresher players stepping in.
With that now set to take place over the next few years, the Italy squad should be back to its strongest point ahead of the 2026 qualifiers and the team will be hoping to right the wrong of this tournament.