Why are there 48 teams at the 2026 World Cup? How the format will work and do Canada, USA and Mexico automatically qualify
A total of 16 cities across the three countries will host fixtures. It is the first World Cup to have more than one host nation since Korea and Japan in 2002 and it will be the first tournament to have three separate host countries.
All three nations are set to automatically qualify for the 2026 tournament, with three other CONCACAF teams set to join them at the tournament. A total of 13 European teams were part of the Qatar World Cup but the number of UEFA sides will only increase by three.
Why are there 48 teams?
In 2017, the FIFA council voted to increase the number of teams from 32 to 48. FIFA president Gianni Infantino was a vocal backer of increasing the number of teams. He stated in 2017: “We are in the 21st century, and we should shape the World Cup for the 21st century. Football is more than Europe and South America; football is global.”
The FIFA president has argued that the increased number of teams will increase interest in the sport by involving more countries while the governing body has pointed to the potential for greater revenue from television rights and sponsorship.
What will the format be?
Initial plans were for teams to be split into 16 groups of three with the top two going into a round of 32. The format for the tournament is not yet confirmed, however. The possibility for two teams to play out a certain result has cast doubt over the 16-group format.
Arsene Wenger, FIFA's chief of global football, confirmed that a decision on the format has not been decided and said a number of options were on the table. He stated: "This is not decided but it will be 16 groups of three, 12 groups of four, or two sides of six groups of four -- like you organise two 24 teams. I will not be able to decide that, it will be decided by the FIFA [council], and I think it will be done in the next year."
12 groups of four would see the top two teams qualify for the round of 32 alongside the best third-placed teams. Using six groups of four would see the tournament split in half with the winners of each half of the draw facing each other in the final.
When is it?
The 2026 tournament will be held during the summer months, starting on June 8, 2026 and ending on July 3.
Who are the host cities?
Vancouver (BC Place)
Toronto (BMO Field)
New York/New Jersey (MetLife Stadium)
Los Angeles (SoFi Stadium)
Dallas (AT&T Stadium)
San Francisco Bay Area (Levi's Stadium)
Miami (Hard Rock Stadium)
Atlanta (Mercedes-Benz Stadium)
Seattle (Lumen Field)
Houston (NRG Stadium)
Philadelphia (Lincoln Financial Field)
Kansas City, Missouri (Arrowhead Stadium)
Boston/Foxborough (Gillette Stadium)
Mexico City (Estadio Azteca)
Monterrey (Estadio BBVA)
Guadalajara (Estadio Akron)