Three countries, 48 ​​teams – this is how the mammoth World Cup 2026 works

In the summer of 2026, the World Cup will take place in the USA, Mexico and Canada. Photo: o/Paul Chesterton

The World Cup in Qatar is over – and the next tournament is already casting its shadow. In 2026 the World Cup will be expanded to 48 teams. And the mode is already causing debate.

It was extraordinary, sometimes bizarre, but above all highly controversial – the football World Cup in Qatar. Now it’s over and looking ahead to the next world tournament. That at first glance is anything but ordinary. An overview of the 2026 World Cup.

The hosts On June 13, 2018, the congress of the world association Fifa decided that the 2026 World Cup will take place in Canada, the USA and Mexico. The three-man application clearly prevailed against Morocco. The motto of the joint application of the three nations is “United 2026”. For the second time, not one country alone is entrusted with hosting – in 2002 the World Cup took place in Japan and South Korea.

The game will be played in 16 cities. Vancouver and Toronto (with the smallest stadium/30,000 spectators) in Canada, in Mexico City with the largest stadium/87,523), Monterrey and Guadalajara in Mexico and in eleven US metropolitan areas: New York, Dallas, Kansas City, Houston, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Seattle, San Francisco, Boston and Miami. 5.5 million fans are expected in the stadiums.

Appointment Unlike this year in Qatar, there will be no need to move from the usual summer date to winter in four years. It will then be played in June and July 2026.

Eleven billion US dollars are targeted

The participants “We are really convinced of the expansion,” confirmed Gianni Infantino, Fifa President, again last week. It remains to be seen whether this will still be the case after the tournament. But one thing is clear: for the first time in 2026, not 32 teams will be playing for the title, but 48. This increase was a promise made by Infantino before he took office. Before the 2017 decision, the European associations were against this expansion, which is intended to benefit other continental associations in particular. The Europeans would get three more starting places (previously 16), the Africans four (previously nine). Asia is also benefiting greatly with at least three other participants (previously eight). Another reason for the mammoth tournament are the revenue opportunities. “There will be more games, the income will increase,” said Infantino recently. In the past four years, Fifa’s turnover was 7.5 billion US dollars, in the next four-year cycle it should be 11 billion US dollars.

The mode So far it was planned that the preliminary round would be played with 16 groups of three. There would then be no more preliminary round games than before, but there would be another knockout round before the round of 16, since two teams in each group would advance. The total number of games would thus increase from 64 to 80, but the road to the final no longer – with seven games you could still be world champion. The problem: In groups of three there is an increased risk of tactical games with a view to the best result for both opponents.

In Qatar, Infantino put the mode for 2026 up for discussion again: “We have to take it up again or at least discuss it again, whether we do 16 groups of three or twelve groups of four.” In Qatar, the final days of the group phase were “absolutely incredible”, said the Fifa boss and spoke of a “success of the groups of four”. There is also a problem with this variant: If the two best teams and the eight best third-placed teams in each group of four progressed, the result would be a game plan with 104 games. The path to the title would also be extended by one game.

In 2024 the European Championship will take place in Germany

The next tournament Before the 2026 World Cup, the European associations will face the 2024 European Championship. This will take place from June 14th to July 14th in ten German cities: Berlin, Dortmund, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Gelsenkirchen, Hamburg, Cologne, Leipzig, Munich and Stuttgart. The qualification begins in March 2023, the German team is already qualified as host. In December 2023, the six groups of four for the tournament will be drawn in Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie. Germany belongs firmly in group A and opens the tournament in Munich. The final will take place a month later in Berlin.

The further plans Fifa is not only driving its profit maximization through the World Cup increase, but also through a new format. A Club World Cup with 32 teams is to take place for the first time in 2025 and will then return every four years.

The FIFA Congress 2024 is to decide who will host the 2030 World Cup. Again several nations will apply together. For example in South America Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile. Since the first World Cup was held in Uruguay in 1930, this application plays the trump card of the 100-year anniversary. Portugal and Spain will probably start together, possibly together with Ukraine. Another European application could come from Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia.

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