As strange as it may sound, the 2026 World Cup cycle
officially began on Monday, as the 2022 edition concluded.
The 2026 edition of the men's World Cup will be co-hosted by
Canada, the United States, and Mexico. The World Cup, which will feature 48
teams rather than 32, will be jointly hosted for the first time by three
However, with three and a half years until kickoff, there
are still questions about the specific format, not to mention the Canadian men's
national team's path to 2026.
Here's everything you need to know about the 2026 World Cup
and its preparations.
When does the tournament begin?
FIFA has not yet released the exact dates, but the World Cup will return to its original June-July schedule after moving to November and December this year.
How many teams from each confederation are eligible?
Following is a breakdown of the teams that qualified automatically:
Teams from the inter-confederation playoff will compete for
the final two spots. There will be six playoff teams in total: every
confederation has one team, with Concacaf receiving two, while UEFA is the only
confederation that will solely have automatic spots in its qualifying campaign.
The format for determining the two playoff winners is not yet official.
Do the co-hosts automatically qualify?
Yes. Concacaf president Victor Montagliani confirmed that
all of Canada, the United States, and Mexico will qualify automatically.
What will be the tournament format?
It was originally planned for the 2026 World Cup to feature
16 different groups of three teams, with the top two teams moving on to a round
FIFA has since given that format change another thought, so
four-team groups may now be the norm in 2026.
It would be better if that happened. First off, it prevents
16 teams from being eliminated after just two games. Additionally, it reduces
the chance of match manipulation.
Eight of the top-ranked third-place teams will likely join
the top two teams from each group if FIFA uses 12 groups of four teams each and
a round of 32 for the knockout stage.
It might be for the best, given the drama and exciting
group-stage finales on display in Qatar.
Which cities will host games?
Games were given to 16 host cities. There are two Canadians,
eleven Americans, and three Mexicans.
What number of games will be held in Canada?
FIFA hasn't decided which cities will host particular games,
like the championship game. However, we do know that starting with the
quarterfinals, every single game will be played in the United States, with
Canada and Mexico receiving 10 games each.
The distribution of the 10 games between BC Place in
Vancouver and BMO Field in Toronto, however, is not guaranteed.
Vancouver will host the draw and have six games. It
might not have been a coincidence that it was the first FIFA-announced city.
How will Canada prepare without qualifiers?
This is the golden question. More marquee matches against
top-tier opposition are needed for Canada to build on its historic 2022 World
Fortunately, the team's meteoric rise and World Cup
appearance will make Canada an appealing option for friendlies against quality
opponents. The star power of Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David and others only
adds to that appeal.
It'll be difficult to arrange some friendlies with World Cup
qualifying beginning in 2023, not to mention UEFA Nations League. However,
there should be some gaps in the schedule.
Meanwhile, Canada's Concacaf Nations League group stage
action against Honduras and Curacao concludes in March. Topping the group means
progression to the semifinals against the likes of Mexico and the U.S. with a
chance to lift a trophy.
The 2023 Gold Cup will begin shortly after, and Canada will
be heavily favored to win.
But facing the Concacaf giants isn't ideal preparation to
face the world's superpowers in 2026.
That's where an invite to the 2024 Copa AmÃ©rica to battle
South America's elite would be massively beneficial. According to a source
within Canada Soccer, the federation has been invited, which would be a
fantastic opportunity for the squad.
It goes without saying that facing Argentina, Brazil,
Colombia, Uruguay and other reputable nations would do wonders for Canada.
The tournament could also be held closer to home. Amid
reports that Copa AmÃ©rica might be hosted in the United States, CONMEBOL
president Alejandro DomÃnguez claimed that all options are being considered.
Stay tuned, but it appears that Canada will compete in the
Copa AmÃ©rica in 2024.