The 2026 FIFA World Cup will be the first FIFA World Cup tournament that will feature 48 national senior men’s teams from FIFA member nations.
The 2026 FIFA World Cup will be the 23rd edition of the FIFA World Cup and will be the first jointly hosted by three member associations. It will take place in North America – the United States, Mexico, and Canada.
A total of 80 matches will be played. Canada and Mexico will host 10 matches each, while the United States will host the remaining 60 games, including all matches from the quarterfinal and beyond.
While Mexico will become the first county to host the tournament three times, Canada will be hosting it for the first time, and the USA will host it for the second time.
2022 World Cup semifinalist Morocco would have been the second African country to host the World Cup, but they lost their bid to the USA.
Football fans and pundits are looking forward to the first World Cup trophy that will be contested by a total of 48 teams from all the six confederations that are members of FIFA.
80 matches will be played, and the number of teams in each group will be reduced to three. Instead of eight groups, the three teams per group will spread to 16 groups.
It should be noted that former UEFA President Michel Platini initiated the idea of an expanded FIFA World Cup. Michel Platini namely put forward four formats of an expanded FIFA World Cup;
40 teams (eight groups of five teams) – 88 matches
40 teams (ten groups of four teams) – 76 matches
48 teams (opening 32-team playoff round) – 80 matches
48 teams (16 groups of three teams) – 80 matches
FIFA adopted the last option, and the slots were apportioned to each confederation as follows;
Africa – 9 (up from 5)
Asia – 8 (up from 4 or 5)
Europe – 16 (up from 13)
North, Central America, and the Caribbean – 6 (up from 3 or 4)
Oceania – 1 (from 0 or 1)
South America – 6 (up from 4 or 5)
There is now a total of 46 direct slots from the six considerations. FIFA will undertake inter-continental playoffs to determine the two remaining slots. It will be contested by all other confederations except Europe, who still maintain the highest number of slots.
Apart from CONCACAF, who will produce two contingents for the inter-continental playoffs, the four other confederations will provide only one contingent.
While FIFA is keen on experimenting with the 48-team tournament for the first time, there have been concerns over how they will allocate an automatic slot for the host country since three nations will host the tournament.
Meanwhile, the United States is more favored to win the argument for the automatic slot since they are hosting 60 matches – 50 matches more than Mexico and Canada, who are hosting 10 matches each.
For the first time, the 2026 FIFA World Cup will be the first tournament in which all six confederations have at least one guaranteed berth.
While an expanded World Cup is a novelty development to broaden the reach and accessibility of the tournament to more nations, running 80 matches rather than the usual 68 matches will require FIFA to commit more resources and officials to the tournament.