Arguably the greatest sporting competition on the planet, the World Cup will return for its 23rd edition in the United States, Canada and Mexico in 2026. Here's everything you need to know about the spectacle.
The 2026 World Cup will take place between Monday 8th June and Friday 3rd July 2026.
The broadcast details for the 2026 World Cup are yet to be confirmed, but it is likely the rights in the UK will be split between the BBC and ITV as is typical for major international football tournaments.
It is the premier competition in international football which has taken place every four years (with the exception of a 12-year hiatus either side of World War Two) ever since the inaugural event in Uruguay in 1930.
It was the brainchild of former FIFA President Jules Rimet, who wanted to stage a separate tournament which would build on the success of Olympic football tournaments.
The first edition in Uruguay featured 13 teams but the number of participants increased to 16 in 1954 and 24 in 1982 before settling on the current number, 32, in 1998.
Further expansion is on the way with the agreement to widen the 2026 edition (to be staged across USA, Mexico and Canada) to 48 teams.
The allocation of slots for different confederations will take on a new format ahead of the expanded 2026 World Cup.
CONCACAF (North America) will be allocated six slots, with three of thee already taken up by hosts the Untied States, Canada and Mexico.
UEFA (Europe) will have 13, CONMEBOL (South America) will have six, CAF (Africa) and AFC (Asia) will now have nine and eight respectively, and for the first time ever, the OFC (Oceania) will be allocated one slot.
The remaining two slots will be filled following an intercontinental play-off tournament involving teams from all confederations bar UEFA.
As the host nations, the United States, Canada and Mexico qualify automatically for the 2026 finals.
The remaining 45 places will be filled following the usual qualification process across all world confederations.
The date of the 2026 World Cup finals draw is yet to be confirmed. It is likely to take place at some point during 2025.
The World Cup format will be forced to change ahead of the 2026 finals following the expansion from 32 to 48 teams.
How this will take shape is as of yet unconfirmed, with discussions set to continue amongst FIFA officials ahead of 2026.
The United States will host the bulk of the World Cup fixtures, including every match from the quarter-finals onwards, across 11 different cities. These cities are: Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Kansas City, Dallas, Houston, Boston, New York/New Jersey, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Miami.
Mexico will host 10 matches across three different cities (Monterrey, Guadalajara and Mexico City), while Canada will also host 10 matches in two different cities (Vanouver and Toronto).
Full list of World Cup 2026 venues:
Eight teams have won the World Cup and six of them have been multiple winners (the exceptions being England and Spain, who lifted the trophy in 1966 and 2010).
Every previous winner has been either European (12 victories) or South American (10 victories).
Argentina won the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, overcoming France on penalties following a 3-3 draw after extra time in one of the competition's greatest ever finals. It was Argentina's third World Cup title after successes in 1978 and 1986, with captain Lionel Messi cementing his legacy as one of the best players of all time as he lifted the trophy.
Brazil have not won the World Cup since 2002 but they are the most successful team in the competition's history with five victories, all of them achieved on foreign soil.
The Samba Stars golden era was between 1958 and 1970 when, with the considerable help of Pele, they won three of four World Cups.
German teams have appeared in the most finals (eight).
West Germany contested six finals, winning three of them, while Germany have appeared in two – finishing runner up to Brazil in 2002, and defeating Argentina in 2014.
Some great teams have failed to get their hands on the trophy but the hardest luck stories could be shared by Hungary and the Netherlands.
Hungary had a great team in the early 1950s, famously defeating England 6-3 at Wembley in November 1953, and were widely considered to be the outstanding team at the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland but they fell short – losing 3-2 to West Germany in the final.
A Hungarian team featuring outstanding players Ferenc Puskas, Sandor Kocsis and Nandor Hidegkuti were two goals up after eight minutes but their opponents came roaring back to record a surprise success.
Another top class team to be edged aside by West Germany were the Dutch team of 1974, featuring legendary attacker Johan Cruyff.
The Dutch took the lead in the final, only to succumb to a 2-1 defeat, and they fell just short of redemption four years later – reaching the 1978 final and losing out 3-1 after extra-time to host nation Argentina.
Pele would be the choice of many people as the greatest footballer of all-time and his impact on World Cups has been undeniable.
The former Santos superstar was part of three World Cup winning squads, scoring 12 goals, and would probably have netted a lot more had he not been injured in the second game of the 1962 tournament in Chile.
In the two finals he did participate in (1958 and 1970) he scored three goals, and he laid on the assist for Carlos Alberto's famous strike in the 4-1 demolition of Italy in the 1970 final which is widely regarded as one of the greatest goals in the tournament's history.
A rival to Pele's status as one of the greatest World Cup players is Maradona, who dragged Argentina across the line at Mexico 1986.
Maradona scored five goals in the 1986 tournament, including the infamous 'hand of god' goal in the 2-1 quarter-final success against England and an outstanding individual goal in the same contest.
It is undeniable that host nations have a big advantage on the World Cup stage.
Six of the 22 previous winners have triumphed in front of their home fans although the last of them (France in 1998) was 23 years ago.
Brazil were famously disappointing hosts in 2014 – losing 7-1 to Germany in the semi-finals – but there have been recent examples of home teams rising to the occasion with South Korea going all the way to the last four in 2002 and unheralded Russia reaching the last eight in 2018.
The 2026 competition has a competitive feel with six teams priced up between 9/2 and 10/1 with bet365.