More teams, more games and almost two months of competition; the 2026 Men’s World Cup is going to be quite an event. FIFA on Tuesday announced the new format for the tournament, which will be held in Canada, the United States and Mexico.
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Here are five takeaways from that announcement:
After seven presentations in this format to 32 countries, FIFA will finally live up to the World Cup name by bringing together 48 nations, or about a quarter of its 211 members. Remember that the hosting countries are already assured of qualification. This allows some countries like Venezuela, Finland or even India to participate for the first time. In fact, 132 FIFA members have never played in a World Cup.
Soccer fans will have their mouths watering when they see the stats below. A total of 104 games will be played in 16 North American cities over 56 days. We can therefore assume that Toronto and Vancouver will each host at least six meetings. Remember that Montreal withdrew from the project last year. The exact start date of the tournament has not been announced, but the finals will take place on July 19, 2026.
More playoff games
The proposal a few years ago to organize the group stage with 16 sections from three countries disappointed many. First, it ended a long tradition of foursomes, and second, it could jeopardize the integrity of the competition. In fact, we feared that two clubs would ally against the third, as has already been seen before… Finally, the two teams at the top of the 12 groups will go into the elimination round, accompanied by the eight best third, for a total of 32 formations.
With 24 more games than the originally planned 80, FIFA should have no trouble raking in more profits as 1.5 million tickets are added. According to Agence France-Presse, it estimated in February that profits could be around $11 billion, around 45% more than in the Qatar World Cup cycle (2019-2022). Remember that the federation redistributes the money earned at the World Cup to its 211 members.
More recreation for players
With the approval of their international calendar for the period 2025 to 2030, FIFA introduced a new welfare policy. During the four international windows, teams will play two games in nine days, allowing for more rest during the long and grueling seasons. In addition, during the World Cup, games only take place on 39 of the 56 days.