FIFA on Thursday began unveiling its plans for a massive three-country men’s World Cup in 2026, announcing the host cities for the biggest ever football cup. The tournament, which will be co-hosted by the United States, Mexico and Canada, will be the first tournament to feature 48 teams, up from the current 32, and will take place in cities across North America.
“This part of the world does not understand what will happen here in 2026,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino told a press conference in Manhattan following the televised announcement.
Elections, 16 cities selected from a list of 22 finalists were identified in three regional groups, blocs representing the Eastern, Central and Western regions.
The winners of the tender included legendary football stadiums such as Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium, which hosted two World Cup finals, as well as metropolitan areas with previous World Cup experience such as Los Angeles, New York, Dallas and Guadalajara, Mexico, as well as newcomers such as Toronto. , Philadelphia, Miami and Seattle.
The final groupings gave a hint of how the tournament might play out, with teams scattered across regions to limit travel across the country for teams and fans, at least in the early stages:
EAST: Toronto (BMO Field); Boston (Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts); Philadelphia (Lincoln Financial Field); Miami (Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida); and New York/New Jersey (MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ).
CENTRAL: Kansas City, Missouri (Arrowhead Stadium); Dallas (AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas); Atlanta (Mercedes-Benz Stadium); Houston (NRG Stadium); Monterrey, Mexico (BBVA Stadium, Guadeloupe); Mexico City (Estadio Azteca).
WEST: Vancouver (BC Place); Seattle (Lumen Field); San Francisco (Levi Stadium, Santa Clara, California); Los Angeles (SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, California); and Guadalajara, Mexico (Estadio Akron, Zapopan).
The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, which hosted the final in 1994, the only time the World Cup was held in the United States, was eliminated. But so was the combined bid representing Baltimore and Washington, D.C., meaning the United States capital will play no role in the nation’s biggest sporting event in 2026.
“It was a very difficult choice,” said Colin Smith, FIFA director of tournaments and events. “You can’t imagine the World Cup being held in the US and the capital also not playing a major role.” (Infantino said the fan festival will take place on the National Mall in Washington.)
Most of the 80 games of the World Cup will be played in the United States, in accordance with the agreement made by the federations of the three host countries when they applied to host the tournament in 2017 and confirmed by FIFA. Of the 16 cities selected, 11 were in the US, three in Mexico, and two—Vancouver and Toronto—in Canada. Mexico will be the first country to host the World Cup three times, and Canada will do so for the first time. The United States previously hosted the World Cup in 1994, a 24-team tournament that still holds the record for attendance even after the number has increased to its current 32 teams. A 48-team competition in 2026 across multiple giant stadiums will break that mark.
Infantino said some of the latest host city decisions weren’t made until Thursday. But many options remain, such as arranging a game schedule, nominating the cities that will host the most important games, including the opening match and the final, and figuring out how to shorten travel and how to avoid the worst consequences. summer heat in cities where the stadium has no roof.
“In a region as large as North America, we need to take care of that, in particular, that teams play in groups so that fans and teams don’t have to travel crazy distances,” Infantino said. “When we look at it, we have to consider the weather conditions, the stadiums, those that have a roof and those that are closed and can possibly play earlier in the day, and those where you need to play in the evening.”
Victor Montagliani, President of Concacaf, the governing body for football in North and Central America and the Caribbean, spoke about the process of deciding which city will host the World Cup final, as well as important matches such as opening or play-off matches. didn’t start. He said that the stadium’s capacity for the final would be a major factor for many.
When asked about specific places such as Mexico City or the New York area hosting the final, Infantino answered modestly. He joked, “New York is definitely a candidate, as are 15 other cities.”
Since many of the selected stadiums were built for NFL teams, they have a large capacity. But in order to accommodate a wider football field in a narrower football space, Smith said some seats will have to be removed in certain “narrow spaces” in some stadiums. But he insisted that this “does not have a significant impact on throughput.” All games will be played on grass fields, which will cost tens of millions of dollars to install and will be installed in every stadium weeks before the tournament opens.