The FIFA World Cup is the most prestigious soccer (and perhaps all of sports) tournament in the world. It is the most viewed sporting event globally, exceeding even the Olympic games. The tournament has taken place 21 times, every four years since 1930 (except for 1942 and 1946 because of World War II), and has been won by eight different nations. Brazil currently has the most titles with five, and are the only country to have qualified for every single tournament.
The 2018 tournament recently came to an end, which saw France capture its second title after beating Croatia 4-2 in a thrilling final. The next edition of the competition is going to take place in Qatar in 2022. This has drawn a ton of controversy. The 2022 World Cup will also be played during the months of November and December. It is the first to not take place in the months of May, June or July because of Qatar's ridiculously hot climate.
The 2026 tournament was announced as a United World Cup in June 2018, hosted by Canada, the United States and Mexico. Mexico and the U.S. have hosted the competition in previous years, however, this will be the first time a men's World Cup game will be played in Canada. This tournament is expected to be unlike any other, as many new changes are going to be made, which will be discussed further in this article.
With the biggest soccer tournament in the world coming to North America in less than eight years, let's take a look at 20 things fans need to know about the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
20 Most Games Will Be Played In The U.S.
The most prestigious competition in soccer will host games in Mexico, U.S.A, and Canada, however, it was announced that 60 of the 80 games are going to take place in the U.S. This includes all the matches from the quarterfinals to the final.
This would be the second time that the U.S.A would host a World Cup Final, as they did so in 1994 which saw Brazil beat Italy in a historic penalty shootout.
For fans from Mexico and Canada, this certainly seems a bit unfair as they will have less of a chance to see the better countries play. Regardless, they should still be glad that the World Cup is coming to their country.
19 There Will Be An Expansion To 48 Teams
The 2026 FIFA World Cup will be one of many firsts. One of those is being the first tournament to host 48 teams as opposed to the current 32, which was decided unanimously by the FIFA Council on January 10, 2017.
The new format will consist of 16 teams from UEFA, eight from Asia, nine from Africa, 12 from CONCACAF, one from Oceania, and two from a playoff tournament. Teams from South America have the greatest percentages of qualifying for the World Cup, as 60% of the countries will qualify. Meanwhile, teams from Oceania have the lowest chances of qualifying at nine percent.
18 The Tournament Will Be Played In 16 Cities
While the final cities are yet to be determined, the 2026 FIFA World Cup will be played across 16 cities. Montreal, Edmonton and Toronto are expected to be the three cities to host games in Canada. Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara will be the host cities for all games in Mexico.
As of now, the 10 cities where the games will be played in the U.S. have not been finalized, as there 17 cities being considered. It is expected that this will be narrowed down to 10 in either 2020 or 2021, and we'll know all 16 cities that will be hosting World Cup games.
17 Mexico Will Be The First Country To Host Three World Cups
The FIFA World Cup has been played all over the world and every time a different country has the privilege to host the tournament, it's a special honour. There have been five countries that have hosted the biggest tournament in soccer twice: Mexico, Italy, Germany, Brazil and France.
In 2026, Mexico will become the first country to host the World Cup three times, having already done so in 1970 and 1986.
In the two tournaments that Mexico hosted, they were knocked out in the quarterfinals. Surely, they'd like to go further this time.
16 Only The Second Ever Dual-Host World Cup
The last time the World Cup was hosted by more than one nation was in 2002 when the tournament was hosted by Japan and South Korea. Both countries had successful tournaments as Japan made the round of 16, while South Korea stunned the world and finished fourth.
This will be just the second time the World Cup is hosted by multiple countries and it would certainly be exciting to see one of Canada, United States or Mexico go on a surprising run in 2026. With the World Cup expanding, we may begin to see more tournaments hosted by more than one nation in the future.
15 First Time Three Nations Host The World Cup
Since this will be only the second time a World Cup is hosted by more than one nation, it will be the first time three countries join forces to welcome soccer's best players on the planet. As mentioned before, this tournament is going to be special because it's one of many firsts and the excitement from soccer fans in these countries is already apparent.
It will be extra special for soccer fans in Canada, who have never had a men's World Cup game played in their country and have been waiting for this time to come for decades. The only question is will they qualify?
14 Host Nations Not Guaranteed Qualification
Although the World Cup will be played in their countries, there has not been any confirmation yet on whether or not the three host nations will automatically qualify. This could be the first time we don't see a host nation given automatic qualification to the World Cup, even though the last time the tournament was co-hosted, Japan and South Korea were given qualification.
Given that the tournament is expanding to 48 teams, it's more likely that Canada, U.S.A and Mexico will be given the privilege to skip qualification.
The FIFA Council is expected to make a decision on the matter soon.
13 Opportunity Arises For Canada
Canada has only qualified for the men's FIFA World Cup once before, which came in 1986. Unfortunately, they finished last in their group - losing all three matches and failing to score a single goal.
Struggling to develop skilled players and be a competitive team in CONCACAF has been disappointing to see, but owning the privilege to host the World Cup presents an opportunity to set a goal to raise their competitive level for the big tournament.
As someone from the Great White North myself, it would be great to finally see Canada putting some real work into getting their country to do well on the international stage and put on a great performance for their nation in 2026.
12 South America's World Cup?
Mexico and the United States are the only two nations from North America to host the World Cup. In the three times that the tournament has been played in North America, a South American country has won the World Cup each time (Brazil 1970, Argentina 1986 and Brazil 1994). Could South America continue this trend and capture the trophy again in 2026?
A country from South America hasn't won the tournament since Brazil won their fifth title in 2002. Since then, it's been a European dominated tournament and only Argentina has come close, finishing as a finalist to Germany in 2014.
11 Natural Grass To Be Installed In Canadian Stadiums
According to FIFA's rules, stadiums are obliged to have natural grass installed for the games of the World Cup.
Of the three stadiums in Canada, only Toronto's BMO Field contains natural grass, which was installed in 2010.
Both the Olympic Stadium in Montreal and the Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton have artificial turf and will require natural grass surfaces. The two stadiums did host games during the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup, where artificial turf was allowed. This recently stirred up controversy as the female players felt discriminated against after being forced to play on an artificial surface, especially since the recent decision to switch to natural grass was made so quickly after Canada was named a co-host.
10 It Will Be The Biggest Tournament In Its History
With this being the first World Cup tournament to have 80 games played and 48 teams, the 2026 FIFA World Cup is going to be the biggest tournament in its history. This will likely mean that more people than ever will be watching and the hype will be unmatched.
It will also be the biggest tournament in terms of location, as there will be games taking place all across North America. Every World Cup is special, but this will be one that nobody has seen before, making it that much more historic. Can we just fast forward to eight years from now, please?
9 It Will Incorporate A New Format
With 16 more teams to be added to the 2026 World Cup, a new format was required so that the tournament's progression through each round made sense.
The FIFA Council considered multiple options for the competition's group stage and eventually decided that there will be 16 groups of three teams in 2026.
This would mean two teams per group would advance to a 32-team knockout round. Even though there will be a total of 16 more games played in 2026, the maximum number of games a team can play remains the same at seven. It will certainly take some time to get used to this new format, however, it seems like the most logical choice.
8 The World Cup Final Site
As mentioned, the final 16 cities and stadiums to host the games are yet to be finalized, however, we can take a look at some of the venues that will be considered and their capacity.
The Rose Bowl hosted the 1994 World Cup Final, but Metlife Stadium is set to host the final, with a capacity of over 80,000 and it being a more modern stadium.
As for some of the tournament's other large stadiums, Mexico City's Estadio Azteca would be the second largest stadium in the tournament at a capacity of 87,523. The largest stadium in Canada would be Montreal's Olympic Stadium with a capacity of just over 61,000 but is expandable to 73,000.
7 History Of Success
Although it is unusual to see three countries host a World Cup, these three countries have had their own history of success when it comes to hosting big soccer tournaments.
As you know, the U.S. hosted the 1994 World Cup which is still the tournament with the greatest spectator attendance in World Cup history at 3.6 million people.
Mexico played host to what are known as two of the greatest World Cups ever, with the magic of Pele and Brazil in 1970, as well as the infamous "Hand of God" by Diego Maradona in 1986 who eventually led Argentina to their second title.
Canada has hosted the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup and the Under-20 Men's World Cup in 2007.
In conclusion, these countries have their own experiences with hosting a World Cup before, thus it seems like the right decision to allow them to host the 2026 tournament in unison.
6 It Will Be The 23rd World Cup
The 2026 FIFA World Cup will be the 23rd edition of the men's competition. There have been a total of eight champions with Brazil currently being the most successful country in the tournament's history with five World Cups. The most recent champions, France, just won their second championship in 20 years.
The Netherlands have been the most unlucky finalists in the competition, reaching the final three times (1974, 1978, and 2010) and losing on all three occasions. They are the only country to finish in the tournament's top four at least five times without having won a World Cup.
5 The Voting Wasn't Close
It came down to Morocco or North America on June 13, 2018, to decide where the 2026 FIFA World Cup would be played. The voting took place at the 68th FIFA Congress in Moscow, where the results saw the United bid receiving 134 valid ballots and Morocco receiving 65.
The joint bid of Mexico, Canada and the U.S. were the clear favorites for the majority of voters. Their acceptance makes a bit of history for each country, as Canada becomes the fifth nation to host the men and women's FIFA World Cup, the U.S. becomes the first country to host the men's and women's tournaments two times, and Mexico becomes the first country to host the competition three times.
4 Division Over New Format
The new format to be incorporated for the group and knockout stages of the 2026 World Cup brought about some opposing opinions from people such as the European Club Association. The association expressed that the number of games in the tournament was already at an "unacceptable" level and that Gianni Infantino's reason for expansion is strictly political so that he can fulfill his promises that got him elected.
Coach Joachim Low also commented on the issue saying the expansion will dilute the value of the tournament as the players have already reached their mental and physical capacities.
With groups of three, there is also a greater risk of collusion in the final round of matches during the group stage. However, Infantino made the suggestion that all group stage matches ending in draws could be decided on penalties.
3 Host Nations Considered Bidding Separately
Having Mexico, Canada and the United States bid for the tournament as one was not the original plan. All three countries considered bidding separately to host the tournament, however, on April 10, 2017, it was announced that the three countries would form a united bid.
Although co-hosting the World Cup had been banned after the 2002 competition, it had been approved by FIFA for the 2026 tournament.
When it was announced that the three countries would be hosting together, 48 venues in 43 cities were contacted, which recently had been reduced to 23 venues in 23 cities. When Morocco announced its bid in August 2017, it had proposed 14 venues in 12 cities.
2 There Will Be A Playoff Tournament
The qualification process for the 2026 World Cup has yet to be decided, but one thing we can be sure about is that there will be a playoff tournament at the end of the qualifying stage involving six teams to determine the last two berths at the World Cup.
This tournament will consist of one country per confederation (except UEFA) and one additional team from the confederation of the host country (CONCACAF). The top two seeded teams, determined by the FIFA World Rankings, will play the winners of the first knockout games between the four unseeded teams.
This competition is expected to take place in November 2025 in the host countries as a test event for the World Cup.
1 It Will Be A Blast
This is probably the most important things soccer fans need to know. Regardless of who you cheer for or where you're from, the 2026 FIFA World Cup is going to be a blast.
For fans in the host nations, to have people from all over the world come to your city and enjoy the biggest soccer competition in the world is going to be an endless amount of fun. For the fans flying across the world to attend the event, it will, without a doubt, be something special as all three countries are already known to be incredible hosts in the past. Finally, for those watching at home, simply enjoy the biggest World Cup tournament to ever take place.
See you in eight years!