The 2022 edition of the World Cup held in Qatar ended with the coronation of Argentina. A title that Leonel Messi’s country will defend in four years during the 2026 FIFA World Cup jointly organized by Canada, the United States and Mexico and which will undergo several changes.

Argentina won the 22nd edition of the World Cup organized in Qatar on Sunday, December 18, a historic edition since it will be the last to be played with 32 teams after its establishment in 1998.

More income and places

Indeed, the 2026 FIFA World Cup which will take place in three countries, Canada, the United States and Mexico, will now host 48 national selections. A decision taken on January 10, 2017 unanimously by FIFA, under the impetus of Gianni Infantino, a great defender of this proposal since his enthronement as president of the International Federation in 2016. The interest will obviously be economic with an opportunity to generate $1 billion in additional revenue and $640 million in additional profit. With 80 matches to play, instead of 64, television revenues should explode.

On the sporting side, 45 selections will be added to the 3 organizing countries, which will therefore make 17 additional places compared to the Qatari World Cup, which will be shared by the different confederations. Europe will remain the most represented continent with 16 nations (+3), Africa will increase to 9 (+4). 4 additional nations also for Asia which will reach a total of 8. South America will add 2 selections to its 4 places already assured.
A total of 6 that will also reach the North, Central America and Caribbean confederation (+3). Finally, Oceania will now have a guaranteed place, knowing that the last two places will be disputed during a play-off tournament with 6 selections.

16 groups of 3 or 12 groups of 4?

While the number of 48 selections has been recorded since 2017, the vagueness is still total concerning the progress of the group stage. The initial idea of Gianni Infantino and Fifa was to set up 16 groups of 3 teams with the qualification of the first 2 to continue with the 32nd finals. But the competition format for the 2026 World Cup is not yet decided, as Arsène Wenger, director of global football development at Fifa, recently confirmed. “It is not decided. It will be 16 groups of 3, 12 groups of 4 or two sides of 6 groups of four, as if you are organizing two tournaments of 24 teams”. The format with groups of 3 does not seem to be unanimous, in particular because it would increase the risk of collusion: the two teams playing last in their group could have an interest in working out, in order to obtain a result which both qualify. But Fifa would consider introducing penalties from the group stage as a solution to this problem.

The option of 12 groups of 4 nations would pose another problem: the total number of matches. Therefore, 104 matches should be held over a competition period which would increase from 32 to at least 35 days.

2026 FIFA World Cup : 16 host cities

Since June 16, the host cities and stadiums of this 2026 World Cup have been known. The United States has been spoiled with eleven cities (Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Kansas City, Dallas, Atlanta, Houston, Boston, Philadelphia, Miami, New York), while Mexico will have three (Guadalajara, Mexico City and Monterrey) and Canada two (Toronto and Vancouver). Note that the Azteca stadium in Mexico will become the first to host three World Cups, after those of 1970 and 1986 where Brazil and Argentina won.

Late kick-offs due to time difference ?

Who says World Cup in North America, says jet lag moreover when the competition is organized in 3 countries with 4 different time zones (not counting Hawaii and Alaska) and 3 hours from coast to coast other. During the 1994 World Cup in the United States, the organization had not scheduled any matches after half past midnight. But in 2026 with 48 selections to play, it will be difficult to adapt to the European, African or Asian public. The first, matches should not take place before 7 p.m. GMT and the last games could be played late at night (2 a.m.)