Imagining the 2026 World Cup

By Edwin Delgado

After spending weeks thinking of how I could solve the travel issues associated with the United States possibly hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup, I successfully finalized a plan which I was eager to post on this blog sometime this week, but then something went horribly wrong.

Last week, Canadian Football Federation and CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani told The Guardian that the three North American nations: Canada, United States, and Mexico were expecting to announce a joint bid. Something that became official on April 10 when all three federations held a joint press conference to announce their plan to present a joint World Cup bid.

All the work I had put into creating a World Cup in which one side of the bracket played on the east coast and the other on the west coast which magically culminated in a final in Dallas had to be scratched. But no worries, I can handle this daunting task of fully dissecting how the 2026 FIFA World Cup North America would look like.

Just before we get into those details, I have to say that since the rumor first surfaced and until now I have been opposed to the idea. The U.S. is more than capable of hosting the world cup, Mexico needs some work but it has the basics in place and Canada definitely needs a partner.

I believe that for a 32-team World Cup the magic number of venues is 12 as Brazil and Germany used in the past and also the number Russia will use for 2018. Under that format, the venues would host an average of five games each with four of them hosting six.

The increase to 48 teams and 80 matches makes 16 the new ideal number. It makes scheduling easier as all 16 venues could host five games each, you can assign a group to each venue and the group’s winner will win the right to stay in that same venue for the Round of 32, meaning you have to reach the Round of 16 before moving from the initial starting venue which works great for the traveling fans who want to follow their team.

Including Canada wasn’t optimal but you could see that partnership working, just as it does in leagues such as the NBA, MLB and most notably the NHL. But now adding a third host in Mexico makes the planning very complicated.

Don’t get me wrong, Mexico the is only of the three countries in which soccer is the most watched and followed sport. The problem lies in the fact that all three countries are large and potential travel between the host cities could easily become a nightmare.

The reason behind U.S. Soccer’s decision to include its neighboring countries in the bid it’s because of how the global perception of the country has changed since in the last few months which could seriously hinder its ability to win the right to host the tournament altogether. The motive here is to project to the rest of the world that the tension between the countries is strictly confined to the political landscape.

How it would work

First and foremost, you have to understand that this tournament will have the vast majority of games in the U.S. with additional venues in Canada and Mexico, so here is the breakdown. I know that in the intro I mentioned 16 as the magic number of venues, however, because you’ll have three host countries, organizers will want to go overboard I chose 24 venues (16 will host three games and the other 8 will host four games). Any proposal with more than that number is simply ridiculous.

Here are the 24 chosen venues:

Canda (3):

BC Place, Vancouver

BMO Field, Toronto (Provided it’s expanded)

Olimpic Stadium, Montreal (Provided it gets upgraded)

Mexico (3):

Estadio Azteca, Mexico City

Estadio Chivas, Guadalajara

Estadio BBVA Bancomer, Monterrey

United States (18):

New Rams Stadium, Inglewood/Los Angeles

AT&T Stadium, Arlington/Dallas

Metlife Stadium, East Rutherford/New York

Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia

New Raiders Stadium, Las Vegas

NRG Stadium, Houston

University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale/Phoenix

Gillette Stadium, Foxborough/Boston

Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta

FedEx Field, Landover/ Washington D.C.

US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis

Century Link Field, Seattle

Sports Authority Field, Denver

Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara

Hard Rock Stadium, Miami

Citrus Bowl, Orlando

Soldier Field, Chicago

Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City

Canada has more venues that could host games but geography is a challenge, Edmonton would need its stadium to be heavily upgraded. Regina and Winnipeg have good stadiums that seat more than 30,000 but are small cities themselves. Ottawa and Montreal are great cities but Ottawa’s largest stadium sits 25,000 and Montreal’s Olympic stadium would need to be reconstructed to even be considered.

Mexico is an easier decision the most iconic stadium, Estadio Azteca is a must, however, a full upgrade will be needed if they want it to be part of the tournament while the recent state of the art stadiums built in Guadalajara and Monterrey fit perfectly in the World Cup.

Similar to my previous post (Shame on you if you haven’t read it.) I went ahead and selected a possible field of nations that could make it to the North American World Cup. I based my selections mostly on current World Cup qualification standings from each region but note that from Europe I scratched Northern Ireland and Iceland in favor of adding Russia who is not currently playing in the qualifiers and the Netherlands who are having trouble in their campaign but are likely to have figured things out by 2026.

This is your field for the 2026 FIFA World Cup:

Host Nations: Canada, United States, and Mexico.

Concacaf (3): Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras.

Conmebol (6): Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, Ecuador.

Africa (9): Egypt, Senegal, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Democratic Rep. of Congo, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Algeria.

Asia (8): Iran, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Korea Republic, Australia, Uzbekistan, United Arab Emirates, Syria.

Oceania (1): New Zealand

UEFA (16): France, Switzerland, Germany, Serbia, Poland, England, Spain, Belgium, Croatia, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Ireland, Sweden, Russia, Netherlands.

Play-In Tournament (2): Peru and Tunisia (Other participants: Trinidad & Tobago, China, Guatemala, Tahiti.)

Once again I made the best team from each confederation, except Oceania and CONCACAF an automatic seeded team in addition with the three hosts: Germany, Brazil, Iran, Egypt. The remaining nine seeded teams I selected using the most recent FIFA rankings but I switched two of those. The remaining seeded nations would be: Argentina, Chile, Colombia, France, Belgium, Portugal, Italy (Switched places with Switzerland), Spain, England (switched with Poland.)

Having all teams in the field I conducted a draw to determine how groups would look like:

Group A Group B Group C Group D
MEXICO ARGENTINA COLOMBIA CHILE
RUSSIA POLAND GREECE SWITZERLAND
TUNISIA NIGERIA SAUDI ARABIA ALGERIA
Group E Group F Group G Group H
BRAZIL GERMANY BELGIUM CANADA
NETHERLANDS SENEGAL URUGUAY IRELAND
BURKINA FASO NEW ZEALAND KOREA REPUBLIC UAE
Group I Group J Group K Group L
UNITED STATES FRANCE ENGLAND ITALY
SERBIA JAPAN CAMEROON PERU
IVORY COAST PANAMA SYRIA GHANA
Group M Group N Group O Group P
SPAIN IRAN EGYPT PORTUGAL
ECUADOR SWEDEN CROATIA COSTA RICA
HONDURAS DR CONGO UZBEKISTAN AUSTRALIA

Now I know what you’re thinking, where would all those games take place? I got you. I went ahead and produced a full World Cup Schedule showing you where each of the group games would be played and also went a little further in predicting knockout matchup to show you where some of the most intriguing and important games would be played.

Remember the goal is to avoid moving teams too long of a distance between games. Since the U.S. will host most of the games it made sense to have the Final and Semifinals in U.S. territory. Two of the quarterfinals I placed in Mexico, one in Canada another in the U.S. The most historic and iconic stadium of them all Estadio Azteca although it wouldn’t host the final I reserved it for the opening match and therefore placed Mexico in group A.

Here is how the schedule would look like with this field of participating nations.

June 10, 2026

Mexico v. Tunisia — Estadio Azteca, Mexico City.

Argentina v. Nigeria — NRG Stadium, Houston.

June 11

Colombia v. Saudi Arabia — Estadio Chivas, Guadalajara.

Chile v. Algeria — Sports Authority Field, Denver.

June 12

Brazil v. Burkina Faso — Rams Stadium, Los Angeles.

Germany v. New Zealand — Raiders Stadium, Las Vegas.

Belgium v. Korea Republic — Univ. of Phoenix Stadium, Phoenix.

Canada v. United Arab Emirates — BC Place, Vancouver.

June 13

United States v. Ivory Coast — FedEx Field, Washington D.C.

France v. Panama — Metlife Stadium, New York City.

England v. Syria — US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis.

Italy v. Ghana — Gillette Stadium, Boston.

June 14 

Spain v. Honduras — Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta.

Iran v. DR Congo — Soldier Field, Chicago.

Egypt v. Uzbekistan — Citrus Bowl, Orlando.

Portugal v. Australia — Upgraded Olimpic Stadium, Montreal.

June 15

Mexico v. Russia — Estadio Azteca, Mexico City.

Argentina v. Poland — AT&T Stadium, Dallas.

Colombia v. Greece — Estadio BBVA Bancomer, Monterrey.

Chile v. Switzerland — Sports Authority Field, Denver.

June 16

Brazil v. Netherlands — Rams Stadium, Los Angeles.

Germany v. Senegal — Raiders Stadium, Las Vegas.

Belgium v. Uruguay — Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara.

Canada v. Ireland — BC Place, Vancouver.

June 17

United States v. Serbia — Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia.

France v. Japan — MetLife Stadium, New York.

England v. Cameroon — Arrowhead Stadium,  Kansas City.

Italy v. Peru — BMO Field, Toronto.

June 18

Spain v. Ecuador — Hard Rock Stadium, Miami.

Iran v. Sweden — Soldier Field, Chicago.

Egypt v. Croatia — Citrus Bowl, Orlando.

Portugal v. Costa Rica — Upgraded Olimpic Stadium, Montreal.

June 19

Russia v. Tunisia — Estadio Chivas, Guadalajara.

Poland v. Nigeria — AT&T Stadium, Dallas.

Greece v. Saudi Arabia — Estadio BBVA Bancomer, Monterrey.

Switzerland v. Algeria — NRG Stadium, Houston.

June 20

Netherlands v. Burkina Faso — Univ. of Phoenix Stadium, Phoenix.

Senegal v. New Zealand — Century Link Field, Seattle.

Uruguay v. Korea Republic — Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara.

Ireland v. United Arab Emirates — Raiders Stadium, Las Vegas.

June 21

Serbia v. Ivory Coast — Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia.

Japan v. Panama — FedEx Field, Washington D.C.

Cameroon v. Syria — Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City.

Peru v. Ghana — BMO Field, Toronto.

June 22 

Ecuador v. Honduras — Hard Rock Stadium, Miami.

Sweden v. DR Congo — US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis.

Croatia v. Uzbekistan — Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta.

Costa Rica v. Australia — Gillette Stadium, Boston.

Round of 32

June 23

Mexico v. Poland — Estadio Azteca, Mexico City.

Colombia v. Switzerland — Estadio BBVA Bancomer, Monterrey.

Argentina v. Russia — AT&T Stadium, Dallas.

Chile v. Greece — Sports Authority Field, Denver.

June 24

Brazil v. Senegal — Rams Stadium, Los Angeles.

Uruguay v. Canada — Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara.

Germany v. Netherlands — Century Link Field, Seattle.

Ireland v. Belgium — BC Place, Vancouver

June 25

United States v. Japan — Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia.

England v. Ghana — Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City.

France v. Ivory Coast — MetLife Stadium, New York.

Italy v. Cameroon — BMO Field, Toronto.

June 26

Spain v. Iran — Hard Rock Stadium, Miami.

Croatia v. Costa Rica — Citrus Bowl, Orlando.

Sweden v. Ecuador — Soldier Field, Chicago.

Portugal v. Egypt — Upgraded Olimpic Stadium, Montreal.

Round of 16

June 28 

Mexico v. Colombia — Estadio Chivas, Guadalajara.

Brazil v. Uruguay — Univ. of Phoenix Stadium, Phoenix.

Argentina v. Chile — NRG Stadium, Houston.

June 29

Germany v. Belgium — Raiders Stadium, Las Vegas.

United States v. England — FedEx Field, Washington D.C.

France v. Italy — Gillette Stadium, Boston.

June 30

Spain v. Croatia — Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta.

Sweden v. Portugal — US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis.

Quarter Finals

July 3

Mexico v. Brazil — Estadio Azteca, Mexico City.

Argentina v. Germany — Estadio BBVA Bancomer, Monterrey.

July 4

France v. Portugal — BMO Field, Toronto.

England v. Spain — Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia.

Semifinals

July 7

Brazil v. Germany — AT&T Stadium, Dallas.

July 8

France v. Spain — Metlife Stadium, New York.

Third Place Game

July 11  

Brazil v. Spain — BC Place, Vancouver.

FINAL

July 12 

Germany v. France — Rams Stadium, Los Angeles.

UPDATE — During the announcement of the bid on April 10, U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said that the intent is to have the United States host 60 games, while Mexico and Canada would host 10 each, which is the same exact number of games I assigned each. However, Gulati mentioned the plan was to seek all games from the quarterfinals onward to be hosted in the U.S. In my proposal above I have Mexico hosting two quarterfinal games and Canada another, but because it’s still early in the process that may change so I’ll leave this proposal as is.