Football

England youngsters who could break into the 2026 World Cup squad


With England’s hopes of 2022 World Cup glory now over, those in charge at the Football Association will start casting glances forwards to 2026.

Some of the current crop of players may have tasted their final World Cup action, but behind them, there are plenty of exciting young players who will hope to force their way into the plans of Gareth Southgate – or whoever is in charge by then.

Here are ten players who are in line for that breakthrough.

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Levi Colwill

Colwill is trying to make the next breakthrough / Alex Burstow/GettyImages

After a dazzling debut campaign on loan with Huddersfield last year, Levi Colwill’s momentum has stalled somewhat after his temporary switch to Brighton. He played 102 minutes of Premier League action before the World Cup – 90 of which came in one game.

That being said, the Chelsea centre-back is still widely seen as one of England’s most intriguing prospects in his position and he is expected to be a top-flight regular well before the 2026 World Cup arrives.

Young defenders have struggled to break into the England setup of late – Fikayo Tomori didn’t even make the last squad despite being a Serie A winner – but Colwill should be optimistic of his chances of making it.

Cole Palmer

Palmer could be City’s next breakthrough star / Quality Sport Images/GettyImages

Cole Palmer has around three years to enjoy his own Phil Foden coming-of-age story.

Comfortably more talented than his tally of 99 Premier League minutes this season would suggest, Palmer has made the bold call of following in Foden’s footsteps and sticking around at Manchester City, preferring to learn under Pep Guardiola rather than heading out on loan.

There’s no denying that it worked for Foden – can Palmer pull it off as well?

Omari Hutchinson

Hutchinson is making waves at Chelsea / RYAN LIM/GettyImages

Hopes have been high for Omari Hutchinson for a while now. Long seen as one of the best products of the Arsenal academy in recent memory, the teenager made the bold choice to swap the Emirates for Stamford Bridge as he joined Chelsea in the summer.

The 19-year-old has been sensational at Premier League 2 level and has caught Graham Potter’s eye, making the senior bench three times before the World Cup break and dazzling during a friendly against Aston Villa.

Hutchinson has previously accepted a call-up from Jamaica but is yet to lock in his international allegiance, so England still have time to convince him to come back.

Harvey Elliott

Elliott has plenty of senior minutes under his belt / Nathan Stirk/GettyImages

Of all the names on this list, Harvey Elliott’s involvement in the 2026 World Cup seems the most certain. He’s already a regular for Liverpool at 19 years old and is still going from strength to strength.

Well-known at St. George’s Park from his time with the Under-16, Under-17 and Under-21 sides, Elliott’s talent has been clear for years and he may have already appeared for the seniors were it not for some rotten luck with injuries.

Midfield is perhaps the strongest area among England’s next generation and Elliott is one of the stand-out names.

Fabio Carvalho

Carvalho’s international future is up in the air / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

Elliott’s Liverpool teammate, Fabio Carvalho was included in Portugal’s preliminary World Cup squad but didn’t make the final cut. Instead of being demoted to the Under-21 team, he sent an abrupt text message to the Portuguese FA informing them he did not want to be considered for junior call-ups anymore.

Carvalho, who represented England from Under-15 to Under-18 level, hasn’t formally closed any doors just yet but his behaviour may have closed them for him, giving England hope of welcoming him back into the fold.

Injuries to teammates have afforded Carvalho plenty of minutes under Jurgen Klopp. A senior international call-up must be coming soon, but just which team he’ll be playing for remains a mystery.

Marcus Edwards

Edwards has gone from strength to strength / Gualter Fatia/GettyImages

There were some calls for Marcus Edwards to make England’s squad this time round. Southgate didn’t agree but there may be no way to ignore the winger when 2026 rolls around.

Currently 24, Edwards hardly qualifies as a youngster but his impact on English football is still in its infancy. Released by Tottenham in 2019, his last appearance for any England side was at Under-20 level that year, but it’s hard to believe that will be his last.

Edwards is shining for Sporting CP at the highest level in Portugal and has regularly been linked with a return to the Premier League. If he seals that move, his chances of a call-up will double.

Samuel Iling-Junior

Iling Junior is standing out / Jonathan Moscrop/GettyImages

Juventus being one of the most underwhelming teams in Europe this year has forced Massimiliano Allegri to hand chances to 19-year-old winger Samuel Iling-Junior who, in limited minutes, has not disappointed.

The former Chelsea youngster bagged two assists across 43 minutes of Serie A and Champions League action before the World Cup, proving that he can hang with top-flight talents at this early stage in his career.

Are we in the early stages of a Jadon Sancho-esque rise to prominence? It’s hard to say, but if we are, an England cap could be right around the corner.

Jobe Bellingham

Jobe is the next Bellingham coming through / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

Four years before this World Cup, Jude Bellingham was yet to play a minute of senior football and was still being primed for his break-out.

Four years before the next World Cup, brother Jobe is already earning fringe minutes in the Championship for Birmingham.

Comparisons between the brothers and unnecessary and yet completely unavoidable. Jude was one of the stars of England’s stint in Qatar and all eyes will be on how close Jobe comes to replicating that impact.

Tino Livramento

Hopes are high for Livramento / Robin Jones/GettyImages

If there’s one position in which England needn’t worry for the next decade, it’s at right-back. Reece James and Trent Alexander-Arnold are still in the infancy of their careers, but behind them are stars like Tino Livramento waiting to break through.

Livramento was an absolute star of the 2021/22 campaign following his move from Chelsea to Southampton, quickly proving himself as one of the country’s most promising prospects in any position. Unfortunately, a nasty knee injury took him down in April 2022 and he is yet to be seen since.

Should Livramento recover as expected, it seems almost impossible that he won’t be a genuine contender for a starting spot by the time 2026 rolls around.

Taylor Harwood-Bellis

Harwood-Bellis is standing out / Nathan Stirk/GettyImages

Working under Vincent Kompany at Burnley has done wonders for Manchester City loanee Taylor Harwood-Bellis, who is a key starter in the heart of the Championship title-hopefuls’ defence.

The 20-year-old centre-back is on his fourth loan away from the Etihad but is starting to yield real results, looking like a machine under Kompany and undeniably earning himself some Premier League minutes next season.

Three full years of top-tier football would give Harwood-Bellis plenty of time to prove he deserves a spot in the next World Cup squad.



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