England have just suffered a crushing World Cup quarter-final defeat to France, putting an end to a dream. So, naturally, it’s time to look forward and set our hopes on the next World Cup in four years’ time.
The 2026 World Cup will take place in North America, with the United States, Mexico and Canada all hosting games throughout the tournament. The three nations collaborated to head the United Bid, beating Morocco for the hosting rights for the competition.
So, with England’s journey in Qatar coming to an abrupt end, 90min takes a look at how the Three Lions can find glory in North America.
The 2026 World Cup will see a significant extension. From the familiar 32-team format we’re now used to, the next World Cup will feature a whopping 48 teams.
This will see UEFA’s spots in the finals rise from 13 to 16. Therefore, we are still uncertain of how European qualification for the 2026 edition will play out, and there is expected to be an announcement on a new UEFA World Cup qualification format on January 25 2023.
In any case, England will have to go through the qualification process in order to claim one of those 16 European places in North America – there’s nothing like a goal-littered and defensively sound qualification campaign to catapult expectations, is there?
England and the rest of the world will have to adapt to a very new-look format at the 2026 World Cup – although the current prospective format has not been completely finalised, the below is likely to occur.
With the expansion of participants, FIFA have for now opted to renovate the group stage and go from eight groups of four to 16 groups of three. The 48 countries will each play twice before the top two sides in each group progress to the knockout phase, commencing with a round of 32 – not a round of 16.
The Three Lions, with the prospect of having to face just one much lower-ranked nation in the group stage at least (presumably, anyway), will be hopeful of a third consecutive appearance in the World Cup knockout stage when 2026 comes around. What happens once the group stage is done and dusted, however, always remains almost impossible to predict.
The total number of matches played will increase from 64 to 80, although finalists will still have played seven games with their appearance at the showpiece event.
It may be a long way off, but we definitely need some hope right now.