More for Vancouver and Toronto? FIFA adds matches to 2026 World Cup

Mar 14 2023, 7:20 pm

The 2026 FIFA World Cup was already going to be the biggest one in history, and today it just got bigger.

FIFA has added additional matches to the next men’s World Cup, which will be hosted by the United States, Mexico, and Canada in June and July of 2026.

A total of 48 countries will participate in the 2026 World Cup, which is up from 32 nations that participated in Qatar. FIFA originally planned to have 16 groups of three countries for the group stage, with the top two teams advancing to the Round of 32 knockout stage.

But at the FIFA Congress in Kigali, Rwanda today FIFA Council agreed to change that plan.

There will instead be 12 groups of four in the group stage, with the top two countries from each group along with the eight-best third-place teams advancing to the Round of 32.

Expanding the tournament was a decision that FIFA president Gianni Infantino hinted at in Qatar following a sensational group stage.

“I have to say after this World Cup, and the success of the groups of four, we have to revisit or rediscuss the format whether we go for 16 groups of three or 12 groups of four,” Infantino said in December.

The decision means that an additional 24 matches will be added to the group stage. That’s likely good news for the 16 host cities — including Vancouver and Toronto — as there’ll be more matches to host.

Canada was previously allotted just 10 matches, but that number should increase — though an official decision has not yet been made.

Today’s decision is also good news for Canada’s men’s national team, which is now guaranteed at least three matches. Previously, every country was only guaranteed to play just twice.

FIFA previously confirmed that USA, Mexico, and Canada will all receive automatic berths into the World Cup as host countries. This will mark the first time that Canada, currently ranked 53rd in FIFA’s world rankings, has qualified for back-to-back men’s World Cups.

“Based on a thorough review that considered sporting integrity, player welfare, team travel, commercial and sporting attractiveness, as well as team and fan experience, the FIFA Council unanimously approved the proposed amendment to the FIFA World Cup 2026 competition format from 16 groups of three to 12 groups of four with the top two and eight best third-placed teams progressing to a round of 32,” FIFA announced. “The revised format mitigates the risk of collusion and ensures that all the teams play a minimum of three matches while providing balanced rest time between competing teams.”

While a full schedule has yet to be released, FIFA did decide on the timing of the World Cup Final, which the United States will host on Sunday, July 19, 2026.

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