Breaking News
More () »

Get ready for the biggest World Cup in history in 2026. Here's what you need to know.

The field has been expanded, so there will be more games more groups and more venues.

DALLAS — With the 2022 World Cup in Qatar coming to a close, eyes immediately move on to 2026 – and North America for that matter – to prepare for what will be the biggest sporting event the world has ever seen.

The United States, Mexico and Canada are set to host the tournament at 16 venues located all across the continent: 

United States

  • Dallas - AT&T Stadium
  • Seattle - Lumen Field 
  • San Francisco - Levi's Stadium
  • Los Angeles - SoFi Stadium 
  • Kansas City - Arrowhead Stadium
  • Atlanta - Mercedes-Benz Stadium 
  • Houston - NRG Stadium
  • Philadelphia - Lincoln Financial Field
  • Miami - Hard Rock Stadium
  • New York/New Jersey - MetLife Stadium
  • Boston - Gillette Stadium


  • Guadalajara - Estadio Akron
  • Monterrey - Estadio BBVA
  • Mexico City - Estadio Azteca


  • Vancouver - BC Place
  • Toronto

How big will the 2026 World Cup be?

Two words: biggest ever. The qualifying field is being expanded from 32 to 48 teams. Historically, the host nation automatically qualifies, so the assumption is US, Canada and Mexico will be in from the jump (FIFA president Gianni Infantino has indicated none of the hosts will have to go through qualifying).

That leaves 45 spots up for grabs. 

Here is how the 48 spots are broken down between the different regions of the world (increase from 2022 in brackets): 

  • Asia: 8 (+4)
  • Africa: 9 (+4)
  • North, Central America and Caribbean: 6 (+3)
  • Europe: 16 (+3)
  • South America: 6 (+2)
  • Oceania: 1 (+1)

The US, Mexico and Canada will be included within those six spots allocated to North, Central America and Caribbean (CONCACAF). So, there are really three spots available for this particular World Cup in that region.

What will the new Group Stage format look like?

With the new, expanded field, that means the eight groups of the four format that has been in place since 1998 is no more. There will be more games than ever before: up to 80 from 64.  

How will it work? In its current state, the new format is set to be 16 groups of three nations each, but Arsene Wenger, FIFA's chief of global football, has said this could be changed with a final decision due in 2023.

The other options being considered are 12 groups of four or "two sides of six groups of four," meaning there would be two, 24-team tournaments going on simultaneously with the halves coming together in the World Cup final.

The format FIFA chooses will affect the number of total games played, and thus, the span of the tournament. The currently-approved model of 16 groups of three yields 80 games for the tournament. However, with 12 groups of four and a round of 32, that increases the output of games in the tournament to a staggering 104 matches. 

The World Cup is historically 32 days long and it would need to be extended to at least 35 days for this new model to even be possible.

A bigger World Cup does offer clear advancement opportunities for FIFA, though.

Just over 3.5 billion people, more than half the world's population, watched the 2018 World Cup in Russia, according to FIFA, and the soccer body earned record revenues of $7.5 billion from commercial deals tied to the Qatar World Cup.

Where will the World Cup Final be played?

This has not been decided (officially), yet. Back in September, a viral report from ESPN Deportes reporters Herculez Gomez and John Sutcliffe claimed that AT&T Stadium in Arlington would be the venue for the final match. WFAA was told by local officials and representatives of organizations involved in such a decision that they hadn't yet confirmed this information themselves.

Officials with the Dallas bid committee told WFAA in July that FIFA would not announce the final, semifinal, opening match venues until 2023 – after the 2022 World Cup concludes.

WFAA did confirm, however, that FIFA representatives did conduct a site visit to AT&T Stadium in August to gather more information and data (ranging from nearby office space, hospitality amenities and so on) that would ultimately help them make those decisions.

Dallas also hosted the World Cup in 1994 and the Cotton Bowl was the marquee venue used at the time. The Cotton Bowl hosted six games in 1994, including a memorable quarterfinal match between the Netherlands and Brazil, remembered as arguably the entire tournament’s top match.

Sources confirmed to WFAA just last week that Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys are planning to bring some serious upgrades to AT&T Stadium over the next couple of years – about $295 million worth.

In order to host World Cup matches, the stadium will be forced to undergo changes to its playing field. As reported by the Sports Business Journal, the bulk of the planned $295 million's worth of renovations will not radically alter the stadium. Rather, they'll be used to refresh the venue ahead of some lease rentals, and to upgrade technology and other services ahead of the next World Cup.  

World Cup history

For more information about FIFA World Cup 2026, visit our deep dive here.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

More World Cup coverage: 

Before You Leave, Check This Out