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In four summers, 48 countries will contest the 2026 World Cup as the tournament takes place in cities across the United States, Canada and Mexico.
The exact cities and stadiums that will host these matches will be announced on Thursday by FIFA, the international governing body for football. A total of 16 stadiums should be selected: ten to twelve in the United States, the rest in Canada and Mexico.
This will be the first time the tournament has featured 48 teams, instead of the current 32-team format. It will also be the first time that the tournament will be held in three host countries.
The cities vying to host the 2026 World Cup matches are: Atlanta; Boston; Cincinnati; Dallas; Denver; Edmonton, Canada; Guadalajara, Mexico; Houston, Kansas City, Missouri; Los Angeles; Mexico City; Miami; Monterrey, Mexico; Nashville, TN; New York/New Jersey, Orlando, Florida; Philadelphia Cream; San Francisco; Seattle; Toronto; Vancouver; and Washington, DC/Baltimore.
Four US cities are considered locked down: Los Angeles, New York/New Jersey, Atlanta and Dallas.
The ‘main’ opener will likely take place in Los Angeles or Mexico City – the two cities that have previously hosted the World Cup finals.
The United States, Canada and Mexico were selected as the winning bid in 2018, beating Morocco. The United States had already hosted the World Cup in 1994; Mexico hosted the tournament in 1970 and 1986.
The joint bid of the three countries is called United Bid, under the motto “Unity. Certainty. Opportunity”. Their campaign highlighted the major financial opportunity of hosting the games in North America, as well as the ease and certainly of using large capacity stadiums already in use.
The majority of competing US arenas regularly host NFL teams, with some also hosting MLS teams. Canadian stadiums host the Canadian Football League and MLS, while the proposed stadiums in Mexico are home to teams from Mexico’s top soccer league, Liga MX.
The offer touted the stadiums’ luxury suites and club space – promising that all are “ideally designed to accommodate FIFA officials and guests, international dignitaries and the premium ticket buyer”.
Hosting the World Cup in three very large countries will pose significant travel challenges for the teams and the fans who follow them, especially compared to tournaments held in a single country with strong train connections that allow fans to move from town to town.
The United Bid took this into account when designing regional clusters for teams and groups.
During the knockout phase of the tournament, there will be a west to east flow, and the bid proposed to place the final game at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. The bid also suggested hosting the two semi-finals in Atlanta and Dallas.
But long before football fans from around the world arrive in North America, there’s the 2022 World Cup, which is taking place in host country Qatar. The tournament begins on November 21 and ends on December 18.