Sáb. Feb 24th, 2024

The 2026 World Cup final will be held at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on July 19, world soccer governing body FIFA announced on Sunday for the tournament being hosted by the United States, Mexico and Canada.

The United States men’s national team begins its 2026 World Cup journey in Los Angeles, playing its first group stage game at SoFi Stadium on June 12. The Americans will play all of their matches on the West Coast, with the next two games being played in Seattle and then back in Los Angeles.

The opening match of the tournament will be held in Mexico City, with co-host Mexico playing a yet-to-be determined opponent in its group and the remainder of its matches on home soil. This will be the third time Mexico has hosted World Cup matches, after serving as the host country in 1970 and 1986.

Canada will host its first-ever men’s World Cup match on June 12 when it starts group play in Toronto, followed by a pair of games in Vancouver.

FIFA’s aim in laying out the schedule was doing what it could to maximize player welfare and the fan experience. The tournament will be held in three countries and across three time zones, providing considerable challenges in making sure players are at their best and fans can follow their chosen teams.

For those reasons, FIFA consulted several stakeholders to make sure it planned for as many scenarios as possible.

These stakeholders within FIFA included experts in competition management, team services, ticketing and hospitality as well as medical. Stakeholders outside of FIFA included broadcasters, sponsors, national team coaches and technical directors along with their respective medical staffs. The technical staff of the three host countries also had considerable input into their group stage venues.

FIFA took note of the 2016 Copa America Centenario, which was also held in the United States. In that tournament, coast-to-coast flights between games weren’t unusual, with nine of the 16 teams enduring at least one such trip. Paraguay endured two such trips in the group stage alone. Those lengthy trips ate into player recovery time and preparation and also made it more difficult for fans to follow their teams.

Given the travel distances and the varying climates, FIFA divided the venues into three regions: east, central and west, with teams operating out of a base camp in the same region as their games. This will give FIFA flexibility in terms of actual kickoff times to better cater to both local and worldwide audiences. The windows for when games will be broadcast are still to be determined.

In addition, FIFA has ensured that teams will have three full days of rest between matches. Out of 104 total matches, the only exception to this guideline will be the third-place game at the end of the tournament.

Stadiums will be assigned to groups rather than individual fixtures in a bid to reduce travel requirements for competing teams.

The travel demands won’t be equal across the 48 teams, however. They will be weighted in favor of teams that finish top of their group, with second-place finishers having less-forgiving travel requirements and third-place teams having the greatest travel demands.

FIFA will also be paying attention to weather conditions. It has looked at heat and humidity readings in each of the 16 venue cities, which will influence what time of day games will be held. Following the group stage draw in December 2025, the final kickoff times will be announced.

The 2026 tournament will feature 48 teams for the first time in history, after FIFA expanded the field from the 32 it had used since 1998. Only 24 teams competed in 1994, when the United States last hosted the men’s World Cup.

In 1994, the United States played two of its group stage matches at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, and the other in Detroit at the Silverdome. The Rose Bowl also hosted the final that year — with Brazil topping Italy in a penalty shootout — and again in 1999 for the Women’s World Cup, when the United States beat China, also on penalties.

With three host nations from Concacaf, 45 other teams will advance to the World Cup through the six confederations’ various qualification processes.

UEFA (Europe) has 16 slots; CAF (Africa) has nine; AFC (Asia) has eight; CONMEBOL (South America) has six; Concacaf (North and Central America, plus the Caribbean) has three; and Oceania has one. Two additional countries will earn their place through a six-team playoff involving the non-UEFA confederations, which will conclude Nov. 18, 2025.


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