The 2026 FIFA World Cup is set to be a historic event – with 48 teams taking part; it will be the largest expansion the tournament has ever seen.

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45 qualifying nations plus the three host countries (United States, Mexico, and Canada) will compete for the coveted trophy.

How Will The Tournament Work?

There are going to be more teams, more games, and a longer tournament. The tournament will open with a group stage consisting of 16 groups of three teams, with the top two teams progressing from each group to a knockout tournament starting with a round of 32 teams.

Kicking off the tournament will be a group stage featuring 16 groups of three teams, with the top two from each group advancing to a knockout phase (32 teams).

Through this new format, the matches played will increase from 64 to 80, yet finalists still play a total of seven games – no change in comparison to when there were 32 teams. Each team will play one fewer group stage match in exchange for an extra knockout round.

Time For Change?

This sixteen three-team competition framework has not been settled: the tournament format is still subject to alteration and could be switched to twelve four-team groups, or even two sets of six four-team teams – essentially mirroring the 1982–1994 tournament structure.

Who Can Qualify For The 2026 World Cup

The qualification process for the 2026 World Cup has yet to be 100% finalized. It is expected to follow a similar pattern to previous world cups. However, the expansion is fabulous news for smaller nations – there are more opportunities than ever to secure qualification!

Each continent’s governing football body will be in charge of organizing its own qualifying tournament, although the specifics still remain unclear. FIFA has confirmed that Oceania Football Confederation has been guaranteed at least one spot in the tournament.

This means we could see Tonga, Fiji, or Papua New Guinea in the World Cup for the very first time. Although, New Zealand will be the favorite to qualify from Oceania.

UEFA is likely to have sixteen teams in the world cup. Africa is set to get nine spots for their teams, Asia 8 spots, CONCACAF 6 spots, South America 5 or 6 spots, and finally, one spot for OFC nations!

When Does 2026 Qualification Start?

Despite no definite date set by the European Football Association, it is anticipated that the FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifiers will kick off in 2025 due to their close proximity to the 2024 European Championship.

South American qualifiers will begin on March 23, but the schedule for the matches hasn’t yet been finalized.

A World Cup 2026 spot is within reach for many CONCACAF nations, thanks to Mexico, Canada, and the United States already qualifying as hosts. Jamaica, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Trinidad & Tobago have a real chance to qualify for the tournament in 2026 – although qualifying dates have yet to be announced.

Asia is one of the first Confederations to start their qualifying process. It is expected that the AFC will initiate its world cup qualifying campaign in October 2023 for the lowest-ranked teams. The African Football Confederation has not revealed the date of the qualifiers.

Where Is The 2026 World Cup

Matches will take place across multiple cities and countries (America, Canada, and Mexico). Host cities include Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Guadalajara, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Miami, Monterrey, New York/New Jersey, Philadelphia, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, Toronto, and Vancouver.

Details on where the opening game and the final will be held have not been released, although it is assumed that they will take place in the United States.

None of the stadiums used in the 1994 FIFA World Cup will be used in this tournament, and Mexico’s Azteca is the only venue being used in 2026 that was used in a previous FIFA World Cup.

Who Will Win The 2026 World Cup

It’s impossible to say who will win the 2026 FIFA World Cup at this point, as a lot can happen in the years leading up to it.

Punters will be wise to keep an eye on favorites such as Brazil, Argentina, and France in their qualifiers. While other nations like Spain, Belgium, England, and Portugal could also challenge for the top spot.