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2026 World Cup Will Be in Three Countries: Here’s How It Will Work

The tournament will be back in North America after 32 years.

Moscow, Russia

Get ready for more stateside soccer. This morning, the member nations of FIFA selected the United States, Canada, and Mexico as hosts of the 2026 FIFA World Cup. The final vote was 134 votes for the so-called “United Bid” and 65 votes for Morocco. How can the World Cup happen in three countries at once? How will it all break down? Here’s a quick guide to how it will all work and why this will be historic.

The 2026 tournament will be the first hosted by three nations.

South Korea and Japan co-hosted the 2002 tournament, but every other World Cup, including this year’s tournament in Russia and 2022’s in Qatar, has been hosted by one nation.

Traditionally, host nations receive automatic bids to the tournament. South Korea and Japan each got one in 2002, but at this point, FIFA is not guaranteeing bids to the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. That decision will be made by the FIFA Council in the future.

That’s probably more uncertainty than U.S. fans are comfortable with.

There will be a new tournament structure to accommodate an expanded field.

For the first time in the history of the tournament, 48 teams will take part in the 2026 FIFA World Cup. They will play 80 games. By contrast, the 2018 tournament, set to begin tomorrow in Russia will feature 32 teams playing a total of 64 games.

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The biggest difference between the formats will be in the group stage, the first part of the tournament. Currently, groups of four ensure that teams play at least three games in the tournament, but the new format will feature groups of three, meaning some teams will only play two games before exiting the tournament.

Most of the games will be played in the United States.

The official bid calls for Canada and Mexico to host ten games each: seven in the group stage, two in the round of 32, and one in the round of 16. The United States will host 60 games, including every game from the start of the quarterfinals through the end of the tournament.

We don’t know all of the host cities yet.

FIFA will make final decisions about host cities closer to the commencement of the tournament, but it is most likely that three each are selected in Canada and Mexico while ten U.S. cities host.

In Canada, Edmonton, Montreal, and Toronto are potential host cities. In Mexico, Guadalajara, Monterrey and Mexico City, where the legendary El Azteca has hosted two World Cup Finals before, are all under consideration.

The American situation is a bit more complicated, as the bid includes 16 potential U.S. host cities for FIFA to choose from. The most likely candidates are MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ, which the bid specifies as the host for the final match. Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta and AT&T Stadium in Dallas are named as preferred host venues for the semifinal matches.

Seattle, Boston, Philadelphia, Denver, Miami, Houston, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Baltimore, Nashville, Orlando, San Francisco/San Jose and Cincinnati are the remaining contenders named in the bid.

Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric raised flags, but he reassured FIFA.

For one thing, barring some kind of constitutional change (or worse), Donald Trump will leave office in 2025 at the latest, so he wouldn’t be president during the Cup. This means that anyone worried that Trump will try to prevent immigrants from showing up to watch the World Cup can relax.

To that point, Trump, seeking to ameliorate FIFA’s concerns, wrote multiple letters to Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, promising that he was willing to relax some visa restrictions to ensure players and team personnel could fully participate in the tournament.

For now, if 2026 seems like a long ways away, here’s how you can start streaming the World Cup at work, starting tomorrow.